FCC seeks comment on establishing EAS national test requirement

The FCC released a Second Report and Order as well as a Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking Jan. 14 seeking input on changes to the nation’s Emergency Alert System (EAS) to provide nationwide testing and the collection of information related to the tests.

Current commission rules covering EAS testing focus on conducting weekly and monthly tests of system components on a local and state level rather than testing the system as a whole, according to the commission. An incident in June 2007 in the Ohio Valley, however, revealed the potential for system-wide failure below a single point of failure on the daisy chain structure used to distribute Emergency Action Notification event codes to EAS participants.

The Second Further Notice proposes changes to Part 11 rules covering the alert system requiring all EAS participants to take part in national tests scheduled by the commission. Those tests are to consist of Federal Emergency Management Agency delivering to primary entry point (PEP) radio stations and national primary (NP) stations a coded EAS message that includes: header coders, attention signal, test script and EOM code. This national test will replace the required monthly test for EAS participants in the month it occurs.

The proposal calls for the commission to give EAS participants a two-month warning before conducting the national test. Participants will be required to log their test results and submit the results to the FCC Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau within 30 days.

In its Second Further Notice, the commission is seeking comment on several specific aspects of the proposed rule change, including:

  • Whether or not the language used in the proposed rule change is sufficient to ensure the framework for the test is adequate;
  • Whether the proposed rule is the best way to implement national testing; and
  • Whether the two-month warning proposed to notify participants before the national test is sufficient.

The commission also wants comment on its analysis that conducting a national test at least once a year is necessary to ensure the ongoing readiness of the system while minimizing disruption to the pubic and the attendant costs of such testing.

The Second Further Notice also seeks comment on specific EAS national test recordkeeping and reporting requirements, as well as whether or not a difference in the way EAS ENDEC units are programmed could impact a national EAS test and what changes to commission rules, if any, should be made to ensure uniform performance of the units.

Comments are due to the commission 30 days after publication of the Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in the Federal Register. Reply comments are due 60 after publication in the Federal Register.