Continuing our series, 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 Harold Price, president, Sage Alerting Systems, an EAS equipment maker.
Radio World: For Sage, what’s the most important outcome in the FCC’s EAS Report and Order?
Harold Price: It is that a nation code has been added, giving EAS a way to send a national alert without using the Washington, D.C., workaround; and mandating use of the NPT, allowing EAS to test national distribution behind the scenes without requiring that the general public be notified beforehand.
RW: From an operational standpoint, do you envision significant changes in what stations have to know or do?
Price: No. Sage users will need to update their firmware and change a setting, but that’s a one-time thing. After that, other than ETRS, there would be no operational changes.
RW: How does the adoption of “six zeroes” as the national location code help make things more reliable?
Price: A national EAN has always required one workaround or another to make up for the lack of a real national location code. Having all vendors handle the EAN in the same manner is a more reliable, repeatable, solution.
Using the NPT as a stand-in for an EAN allows the national audio distribution paths to be tested without sending a live code EAN. That allows a test to be properly identified as a test in the visual part of the alert.
RW: Were there aspects of the order with which you disagreed?
Price: No. However, there are other areas for EAN improvement that the FCC’s CRSIC committee recommended that the commission has not yet acted on.
RW: A new FCC Electronic Test Report System is being set up. What concerns, if any, do you have about a new FCC database for EAS participants to interact with?
Price: Sage doesn’t have any direct interaction with that new requirement.
RW: What else should we know about this order, or any current or planned changes in the EAS system?
Price: There will be a changeover in how EANs are sent that needs to be coordinated. For example, if an EAN were sent tomorrow, what would the location code be? Some users will need to make changes to accept the 000000 code. The Washington code will probably be used for a little while longer. Users need to know when they should remove the Washington code and accept only the 000000 code. Anyone who changes to only the 000000 code today will miss an EAN if it is sent with the Washington code. These issues are easily worked out, but the stakeholders need a quick work session, follow by an announcement by each vendor as to what action their users need to take on what date.