A Fix for Nationwide Emergency Alerts

Posted on June 30th, 2015 by

After conducting extensive investigations into the less than stellar results of the national Emergency Alert System test of 2011, the Commission has now adopted a new set of requirements designed to fix the problems that were identified in that test and to improve the overall national EAS testing system. The good news is that the vast majority of the work will need to be done by the EAS equipment manufacturers. The bad news is that broadcasters will be required to do more reporting.

EAS manufacturers are now tasked with figuring out how to get their encoders to accept the new National Location Code of six zeroes (000000) which is to be used to denote the national test. The last national test used the Washington DC origination code, which many systems rejected as not local and out of the area. The encoders will also need to be able to accept the new National Periodic Test Code (NPT), which is to be used as an alternative to the Emergency Action Notification. The NPT is also capped at 2 minutes.

EAS equipment will need to emit tests that meet the new baselines for test quality in display and speed. Stations may want to reach out to the manufacturer of their EAS equipment in the near future to determine what steps the manufacturer is taking to implement these changes, or what steps stations may need to take to download new updates.

Of course, the FCC can’t take an action without adding a broadcaster reporting requirement. The Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau has the unenviable job of implementing a new Electronic Test Reporting System (ETRS). When it launches, EAS participants will have 60 days to register. ETRS will also be used to report actions during tests. No announcement yet of when ETRS will go live, but we’ll be sure to cover it here.