FCC to States: Update Your EAS Plan

WASHINGTON—The FCC’s Public Safety & Homeland Security Bureau is urging state emergency communications committees to make sure their EAS plan is up-to-date.

During the national EAS test in 2011, the FCC and FEMA found that some stations didn’t know which Primary Entry Point stations to monitor in their market to get their alerts. That’s one of the points the bureau made in its recently-released report on the test findings.

The bureau recommended the commission issue a public notice reminding SECCs their EAS plans need to be current. Now the FCC has gotten specific and said the plans should include a data table, in computer-readable form, showing monitoring assignments as well as the specific primary and backup path for emergency action notification messages that are formatted in the EAS Protocol, from the PEP to each station in the plan. An EAN code would be used for an EAS alert when the president wants to address the nation. That’s what was tested in 2011.

Since June 30, 2012, stations have been required to be able to receive EAS alerts formatted in Common Alerting Protocol from FEMA’s web-based interface. State and local alert originators may use CAP-based alerting; if so, their state plan needs to spell out how the alerts would be aggregated and distributed to stations within their state, including monitoring assignments.

If a state plan already on file at the FCC is current except for the CAP portion, a state can file an amendment letter with a description of the CAP monitoring assignments and the filing date of the plan that the revision supplements.

In a related note, the FCC granted a request from broadcasters and other groups representing them who asked that 15 petitions for an EAS waiver request be withdrawn.

The groups initially asked for a waiver of the June 30, 2012 date by which stations had to have EAS encoders/decoders installed that could handle a CAP-formatted EAS alert. The 15 petitioners, mostly television groups, plus one radio licensee, Uno Radio Group, now say they have the updated EAS gear installed or their station is no longer on the air.