Washington - Apr 15, 2013 - On Nov. 9, 2011, at 2 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Emergency Management Agency conducted the first-ever nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System. Thousands of broadcasters, cable operators, and other EAS participants took part in the test, which involved the simultaneous receipt and broadcast of a live national EAS alert to all EAS participants across the United States and its territories. The purpose of the test was to allow the FCC and FEMA to assess how the national EAS architecture would perform in practice, and to develop and implement any necessary improvements to ensure that the EAS, if activated in a real emergency, would perform as designed. The test was the result of approximately two years of planning and preparation, involving the FCC, FEMA and other federal agencies, EAS participants and their organizations, state and local governments, consumer groups and organizations representing people with disabilities.
The FCC created a database that would allow EAS participants to file their required reports electronically, and would facilitate the agency's analysis of the test's results. The FCC received and analyzed test result data from more than 16,000 EAS participants, and held discussions with EAS participants, FEMA and other EAS stakeholders to analyze the test's results. The report summarizes the lessons learned from the test and the FCC's recommendations for strengthening the EAS.
Overall, a large majority of the EAS participants successfully received the Emergency Action Notification (EAN), the live code for the national EAS, and, if required, retransmitted the EAN to other EAS participants. The test demonstrated that the national EAS distribution architecture is basically sound. As expected, however, the test uncovered several problems that impeded the ability of some EAS participants to receive and/or retransmit the EAN. These included:
■ Widespread poor audio quality nationwide
■ Lack of a Primary Entry Point (PEP) in the area to provide a direct connection to FEMA
■ Use of alternatives to PEP-based EAN distribution
■ The inability of some EAS participants either to receive or retransmit the EAN
■ Short test length
■ Anomalies in EAS equipment programming and operation
The Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau, the division that ran the test and collected the results, recommends that another nationwide test be conducted after the Commission takes a number of steps to strengthen the EAS, including:
1) Commencing a rulemaking proceeding to examine equipment performance issues during activation of an EAN and seek comment on proposed changes, if any, to the EAS equipment rules to ensure that EAS equipment operates in a consistent fashion throughout the EAS architecture.
2) Issuing a Public Notice encouraging states to review and as necessary update their EAS plans to ensure that they contain accurate and up-to-date information regarding monitoring assignments as required by FCC rules.
3) Commencing a rulemaking proceeding to consider possible changes to its EAS plan rules.
4) Working with FEMA to develop and issue best practices and other educational materials for EAS participants, and, also with FEMA, consider hosting a workshop or other public forum that could provide opportunities to educate EAS participants about EAS performance and address concerns and questions EAS participants may have about EAN operations.
Turning to the issue of nationwide EAS testing, the Bureau recommends the Commission take the following actions:
1) Commencing a rulemaking proceeding to address any operational nationwide EAS test issues left open in previous EAS orders, such as a possible nationwide location code for national EAS activations, use of the National Periodic Test code or other test code that would allow FEMA and the FCC to conduct less disruptive nationwide tests; and future use of the EAS Operation Handbook.
2) Developing a new Nationwide EAS Test Reporting System database to improve electronic filing of test result data by EAS participants.
3) Encouraging the Executive Office of the President to reconvene the Federal EAS Test Working Group to ensure accountability as Federal partners and other stakeholders work to implement the lessons learned from the first test and to plan for future nationwide tests.
The table below provides an overview of the performance of EAS participants according to their designation within the EAS hierarchy. For this report, all cable operators fall into the Participating National category.
|EAS Designation||Stations||Receipt of EAN|
|National Primary (PEP)||62||0.43%||59||95%||3||5%|
|Local Primary 1 (LP1)||916||7%||756||83%||160||17%|
|Local Primary 2 (LP2)||720||5%||580||81%||140||19%|
Read the full report.