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New EAS Codes Get Green Light

Codes target storm surge and extreme wind events

The Federal Communications Commission has moved ahead on its plan to add new event codes to the nation’s Emergency Alert System.

These codes are specifically designed to warn the public about storm surges and extreme winds that may accompany hurricanes and other severe weather events. 

In response to community and industry input, the FCC released an order that adds three additional codes to the commission’s EAS rules to signify “Extreme Wind Warning,” “Storm Surge Watch” and “Storm Surge Warning” so that communities can receive more specific and relevant alerts during hurricanes or other severe weather.

Expect to see the three-letter codes “EWW,” “SSA” and “SSW” added to the commission’s revised Part 11 EAS rules.

The commission initiated the proceeding following a request from the National Weather Service, which suggested the revisions would harmonize the EAS with the NWS’ weather radio system.

The updated rules also require EAS equipment manufacturers to integrate the codes into new equipment, and to make necessary software upgrades available to EAS participants within six months. EAS participants will have the ability to upgrade their existing EAS equipment to include the new event and location code revisions on a voluntary basis until their equipment is replaced — an approach taken by the commission the last time it adopted new event and location codes.

Virtually all commenters supported adoption of the new alert codes and code revisions, the commission said in its order. One EAS manufacturer told Radio World that the new event codes will be useful additions to the EAS system.

“We don’t see this as a major issue for EAS manufacturers,” said Edward Czarnecki withMonroe Electronics, corporate owner of EAS equipment manufacturer Digital Alert Systems. Three EAS manufacturers filed comments with the FCC in support of these new event codes, and all noted that accommodating them was a matter of a software or firmware updates. “In our case, with the DASDEC, these three event codes are already included in the version 3.0 update. If a DASDEC user wants to add any of these new event codes, it’s simply a matter of a drop down selection in our new version 3.0 user interface,” he said.

The NWS indicated to the commission that it will not initiate alerts using the new codes until the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season to allow for a public outreach program. Use of these new codes by broadcasters is voluntary.

In a blog posting in June, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler noted that he was circulating the rules at the request of the NWS. He notedthat the heads of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the National Hurricane Center recently emphasized the danger of storm surges.

The new EAS order also revisedterritorial boundaries of the geographic location codes for two offshore marine areas. The complete Part 11 EAS rules can be found here.