The FCC this month issued a report and order regarding the Emergency Alert System. Its actions were based in part on what was learned in the first national EAS test in 2011.
Radio World is sharing observations about the implications from industry observers — here, from Edward Czarnecki, senior director of strategy, development and regulatory affairs for the Digital Alert Systems division of Monroe Electronics, which makes EAS equipment.
Edward Czarnecki Radio World: For you, what’s the most important outcome in the FCC’s latest EAS report and order?
Edward Czarnecki: The FCC R&O has given industry some useful clarifications on the NPT [National Periodic Test] and the textual display of emergency alerts, and a much needed decision on a national location code. It is a relatively limited order in terms of scope, but a necessary one. The impact on EAS will be an incremental but significant improvement, and our feeling is that the FCC will probably find it necessary to issue additional orders.
RW: From an operational standpoint, do you envision significant changes in what radio stations have to know or do?
Czarnecki: We don’t see any significant changes for radio stations using our DASDEC equipment. Radio stations and EAS manufacturers have 12 months to meet the requirement of the order, which include adjusting how both the NPT and EAN react to the new national geocode, as well as existing local FIPS codes.
In the short term DASDEC users can simply to modify a few settings on their equipment, such as selecting the 000000 geo code (which is already onboard the DASDEC), and setting the NPT for automatic forwarding. Guidance for DASDEC users is available here (PDF). We are also likely to release a software update to further address these newly required functions for DASDEC users. We will contact registered DASDEC users when such a software update is available.
RW: How does the adoption of “six zeroes” as the national location code help make things more reliable?
Czarnecki: Adding a national location code helps provide authorities with the ability to send an EAN or NPT nationally, or focus an alert into a regional or state level. It also removes the ambiguity or confusion of using a local FIPS code for a national level event. This is a capability we had been suggesting in our FCC filings and CSRIC discussions for a number of years now, so we are pleased the FCC has made this decision. The DASDEC currently supports the “six zeroes” location code, as well as immediate auto-forwarding of the NPT message for transmission.
RW: Were there aspects of the order with which you disagreed?
RW: A new FCC Electronic Test Report System is being set up. What concerns, if any, do you have about a new FCC database that EAS participants must interact with?
Czarnecki: At this point, we have no major concerns. We are encouraged over the planned ability to support batch filing of reports. This may greatly simplify things for larger operations, managing multiple licensees, and ultimately enhance the speed and accuracy of filing.
RW: What else should we know about the order, and about any current or planned changes in the EAS system?
Czarnecki: We anticipate additional FCC action on the three new event codes proposed by the National Weather Service, likely in the form of another Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, hopefully during the course of the summer. We also expect an FCC response to the multilingual petitions filed by the MMTC (now called the Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council). This has been outstanding for a while, but we don’t have any solid idea as to what or when the FCC will come out with anything. We also hope to see additional FCC interest in enhancing the security of the EAS protocol, though this may also be a bit further out.