EAS Handbook Must Be at Duty Stations for Nov. 9 Nationwide Test

WASHINGTON: Broadcasters and cable operators participating in the Nov. 9 nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System are required to have a specific document on hand during the event. The Federal Communications Commission has posted its EAS Handbook for the test, with the following directive:

“A copy of the handbook must be located at normal duty positions or EAS equipment locations where an operator is required to be on duty and must immediately be made available to staff responsible for participating in the test.”

This latest EAS handbook supersedes all previously released versions. It is available in .pdf form here.

The FCC notes that while state and local EAS tests are conducted weekly and monthly, the Nov. 9 test will be the first “end-t-end test of the nationwide system involving all participants in a synchronized, simultaneous exercise.”

It will diverge from the state and local tests in that it will use the Emergency Action Notification, or EAN event code--the same code that would be used in an actual national emergency. The test will last around three minutes--compared to two minutes for the monthly tests--to assure systems don’t lock up after the shorter time period.

The audio portion will state, “This is a Test.” For TV providers, the EAN will automatically generate a text crawl saying, “A primary Entry Point station has issued an Emergency Action Notification,” that does not indicate the event is a test. Therefore, video service providers are encouraged to insert a separate crawl or graphic indicating that the event is a test.

All participants must monitor at least two sources. The system works hierarchically, with primary stations notifying others next in line, which in turn notify other stations in line and so forth. The National Weather Service Radio will not participate.

Participants will be required to fill out three online forms related to the test, the first being due before Nov. 9, and the others, by Dec. 27, 2011. (See “First EAS Test Form Due Before Nov. 9 Test.)

~ Deborah D. McAdams

June 15, 2011:
“First National EAS Test Scheduled for November”
A national alert enables the president to break into regular broadcasts and address the American public during emergencies. One has never been issued in the history of the system, established in 1951 by then President Harry Truman during the Cold War. It was then known as CONELRAD and included the capability to jam aircraft homing devices. It was replaced in the 1960s by the Emergency Broadcast System, which in turn was supplanted with the current Emergency Alert System in 1997.