The FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau has released its initial findings from the 2016 nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System, which reflect improvements from the 2011 test but further opportunities to strengthen the EAS.
On September 28, 2016, FEMA, the Commission, and the National Weather Service, conducted a nationwide test to assess the reliability and effectiveness of the EAS and FEMA’s Integrated Public alert and Warning System (IPAWS). Following the test, EAS participants were required to file two reports: one providing initial results and a second report providing additional details.
The Commission’s analysis indicates that the 2016 test was more effective than the last nationwide EAS test in 2011. Among the highlights:
- More than 21,000 radio stations, broadcast television stations, cable systems, satellite services, and other EAS participants participated in the nationwide test—a 26% increase in participation from the 2011 nationwide test.
- 94% of test participants successfully received the test alert—a 12% improvement from the 2011 nationwide test.
- For the first time, 74 EAS participants retransmitted the IPAWS-generated Spanish language version of the alert.
Nevertheless, the Bureau identified several opportunities for future improvement. First, the Bureau found that some EAS Participants relied on over-the-air broadcast feeds instead of the IPAWS Internet feed, which resulted in poor audio quality and/or the inability to deliver the Spanish language alert. The Bureau suggested that this could be avoided if EAS participants check the Internet-based IPAWS feed upon receiving a broadcast alert. Second, some people with disabilities reported difficulty receiving or understanding the alert text or audio. The Bureau indicated that this can be resolved by applying the FCC’s accessibility rules to EAS tests. Third, the Bureau identified flaws in some state EAS plans. Fourth, the Bureau determined that some EAS participants did not receive the alert because they had improperly configured equipment. Finally, the Bureau indicated that EAS participants could integrate cyber security guidelines into their EAS equipment readiness rules to prevent against cybersecurity threats.
Although the findings and recommendations are currently only in the form of a report, we expect that the Commission will initiate a rulemaking proposing to adopt some or all of the recommendations into rules.