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The FCC Process to OK EAS Plans Is a Lengthy One

Monitoring assignment rules have slowed authorizations

The Federal Communications Commission is working its way through its stack of state EAS plans, but the pace of approvals is slow.

Prompted by Congress, the commission in 2021 implemented some changes in alerting policies, one of which requires State Emergency Communications Committees to meet at least once a year and to submit an updated EAS plan annually.

Last year was the first time that SECCs submitted full plans using the commission’s Alert Reporting System, or ARS, an online filing platform. They were required to do so by July 5, 2022, but almost a year later some had still not done so, and the FCC had approved only 15 plans.

“We always anticipated that we may be working with many SECCs during this review process to ensure that their state EAS plans meet all the required elements,” an FCC spokesperson told Radio World.

The plans, which govern EAS operations and activation procedures in the respective states, are designed by SECCs. They feature various methods of EAS message distribution, but all must include a monitoring assignment matrix, clearly showing monitoring assignments and the specific primary and backup path for the National Emergency Message, according to the FCC.

Redundancy theme

Since last summer, staff in the Public Safety and Homeland Security division have been scrutinizing the plans submitted by the 50 states, Washington, D.C., and four territories. The FCC was required by Congress to accept or reject these plans within 60 days of the filing deadline.

Not all states filed by the deadline. And many SECCs “needed to make substantive changes to their plans in order to comply with these rules, and that process is underway,” a spokesperson said.

A sampling of comments from state EAS chairs indicates that the issue cited most often is the requirement for two independent paths for the EAN to reach each EAS participant in the state. And the commission spokesperson said, “The most common feedback we’re providing concerns SECC compliance with the new monitoring assignment rules, including satellite monitoring. Staff is working closely with SECC representatives as they prepare to submit new plans, or revised versions of previously filed plans to help them understand and come into compliance with the new rules.”

One solution has been to require LP-1 stations in a state to monitor SiriusXM. In Wisconsin, for instance, this added a second EAN source along with the local LP-1, according to people familiar with its plan.

The rules put greater emphasis on redundancy. “If one source of an alert fails, we want to ensure another source is available to deliver the alert to the public,” said a spokesperson.

Michigan’s state EAS plan was approved by the FCC in late 2022 and has already undergone a recent rewrite by its SECC, according to its Vice Chair Dan Kelley.

Kelley said the ARS system was somewhat “intimidating and confusing” at first. In fact, the state’s EAS plan was rejected by the FCC several times.

“The biggest challenge was making certain there were two independent paths to reach EAS participants. This is not something we knew going in and was only discovered when the FCC began scrutinizing our plan,” he said.

Kelley, who is director of technical services for the Michigan Association of Broadcasters, developed a flow chart to better visualize how EANs reached local primary stations in the state.

“As a result, we asked some public radio stations to add the capability of receiving national alerts through National Public Radio’s NPR-1 channel,” Kelley said. “Additionally, we supplemented what we were already doing by adding SiriusXM receivers where necessary at key Local Primary stations in the state, where it was apparent that there was only one path for an EAN message to be relayed.”

Kelley says the MAB provided the SiriusXM receivers at no charge to stations. Michigan broadcasters are being told to have printed copies of the latest state plan on-hand at their facilities in case of inspection.

South Carolina’s plan also has been approved. Its SECC Chair John George says using ARS to file was cumbersome but that after several online conferences, the process was easier to grasp.

“A major focus (of the FCC) is on national activations. In the past, we were concerned more about our state activations than we were about the national activations. It was a change of mindset for sure,” George said.

South Carolina too is utilizing SiriusXM receivers for a few LP stations that did not have two independent paths for monitoring, he said. No subscriber fee is required since the stations monitor SiriusXM Channel 1, the promo channel that also carries the national tests and activations.

George says the online format will allow easy updates of state plans since it is “basically a living document” in an FCC database.

Plans that have been approved as of early June, listed chronologically, are Illinois, Nevada, Alabama, Minnesota, Alaska, Michigan, Louisiana, South Carolina, Wisconsin, New York, Georgia, the District of Columbia, Washington state, Ohio and Massachusetts. The list appears at That page also has a plan checklist for SECCs.

Process tweaks

The FCC in June announced some procedural changes for submitting the state plans and updating monitoring assignments.

The bureau says its system now will allow SECCs to seek approval for changes at any time rather than only once per year; staff will review them as they come in.

“The Public Notice we issued describes enhancements that make our filing system easier to use and clarifies how certain requirements apply, in order to help the remaining SECCs revise and refile their plans as needed,” the FCC spokesperson said.

SECCs also will be able to submit and ask for approval for updated monitoring assignments at any time, helping states keep their plans current and reducing the need to ask for waivers. The FCC wants participants to begin monitoring new sources as soon as possible if they can no longer receive an old source reliably. (Also, a submission of a monitoring assignment amendment will be treated as a newly submitted plan; if the bureau approves it, the SECC will have satisfied its annual filing requirement for another year.)

The commission also clarified that any plan filing may contain monitoring assignments that EAS participants are in the process of carrying out but have not yet fully implemented, as when a station or other participant is going to monitor a satellite source but hasn’t acquired the receiver yet.

The bureau also recommended that SECCs configure their monitoring assignments by assigning as many EAS participants as possible to directly monitor (with no intermediate links) one or more sources that receive the National Emergency Message (EAN) signal directly from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

It pointed out that the 77 radio stations and three satellite networks that make up the National Public Warning System — previously known as the Primary Entry Point system — deliver the EAN alert from FEMA to EAS participants.

The broad footprint of those sources should make it possible for most participants to monitor signals from one or more of them directly, regardless of their designation in the EAS plan. “The bureau recommends that EAS plans, whenever possible, minimize the number of intermediate links for EAS participants to monitor such sources.”

Got your handbook?

On a related note: The new 2023 EAS Operating Handbook is available from the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau. This year’s updates are minor but broadcasters still need to replace their old ones. 

The handbook helps the personnel at EAS participants, including radio stations, to handle EAS messages and tests by outlining the operational procedures to meet the requirements found in the Part 11 rules. The handbook summarizes the actions to be taken by your staff upon receipt of a national-level EAS alert; required national, monthly and weekly tests; and state and local area alerts. A copy of the 2023 handbook must be located at normal duty positions or EAS equipment locations.

Download the 14-page handbook as a PDF at

An earlier version of this story misspelled Dan Kelley’s last name.

[Read more coverage of EAS and alerting issues.]