New rules were adopted by the Federal Communications Commission in March 2016 that require EAS participants to tell their state emergency officials what they are planning to do when it comes to distributing non-English EAS messages. The order now requires all state EAS plans to include a description of the way that EAS participants make EAS alert messages available to those who communicate in languages other than English.
How have SECCs been working to facilitate this? Over the last week or so, individual state emergency coordination committees have tackled the collection of information in different ways.
The Washington State SECC, for example, established a one-page electronic survey to collect information. The survey asks to include identifying data like call letters and contact names, as well as details on other EAS participants affiliated with the station.
The Washington state survey also allows participants to describe the actions a station has taken to make EAS details available in non-English languages, and asks them to describe future actions the station plans to take when it comes to any non-English EAS alert actions.
Similar steps are being taken in North Carolina, where EAS participants are being asked to fill out a 10-question survey of yes-or-no questions about alerting. One question asks why a station does or does not provide multilingual EAS alert, and then offers a series of prompts to help a station describe why they are or are not taking such action — such as “[because] we don’t want to interrupt programming with more EAS alerts” or “we don’t think we have enough non-English speaking listeners to warrant multilingual EAS alerts.”
In the weeks before the deadline, suggestions bounced around on professional engineering discussion groups on how to best to gather information from EAS participants. Is it better to create a boilerplate survey that all SECC chairs can use? Or ask state associations and organizations like NAB or SBE to help get the word out about deadlines such as these before the deadline?
SECCs also face other challenges in gathering this EAS data — such as the fact that SECCs rely on individual EAS participants to contact them.
As a refresher for those EAS participants who have not yet submitted information, the FCC is asking EAS participants to take the following steps by Nov. 6:
- Step one: prepare a written description of any multilingual EAS-related actions taken to make EAS alert content available in languages other than English to its non-English speaking audience. If no such actions are being taken, indicate that and explain why. Be sure to include in the description any future actions planned, along with an explanation for the EAS participant’s decision to plan or not plan such actions.
- Step two: submit the description of multilingual activities to the SECC that administers your state EAS plan.
- Step three: as needed throughout the year, notify the SECC and FCC of any significant changes that occur with respect to the multilingual information that was reported. Those details should be submitted in the form of both a letter to the commission’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau (firstname.lastname@example.org), and to your SECC (a listing can be found here).