As reported previously, FEMA, along with the FCC and NOAA, will conduct the first nationwide Emergency Alert System (EAS) Test on November 9, at 2:00 p.m. Eastern. The EAS has never been tested on a national level. Needless to say, it is important for EAS Participants to educate the public in advance of the test so as to avoid panic when the test airs.
The FCC and FEMA have produced public service announcements (PSAs) to increase public awareness of the test. The National Association of Broadcasters recommends that all EAS Participants air one or more of these PSAs, starting at least a week prior to the test, and then increase the frequency of the PSAs as the November 9 deadline draws near. Video and audio PSAs that can be used to educate the public are located on the FCC’s National EAS Test website.
In addition, the National Alliance of State Broadcasters Associations and the NAB have put together very useful EAS websites here and here that can greatly assist EAS Participants in conducting the national test. The NAB has put together a checklist that provides tips to ensure that EAS equipment is ready for the test, and outlines specific actions EAS Participants should take before and after the test. Also, FEMA has put together a just released “EAS Best Practices Guide” that provides helpful information for improving the effectiveness of EAS going forward. On the day of the test, stations should follow the procedures set forth in the FCC’s soon-to-be-released new EAS Handbooks, and disregard prior versions of the Handbooks.
The FCC is currently in the process of completing an electronic EAS reporting system to allow EAS participants to electronically report on their experience in participating in the national test (what went right and what went wrong at their facility). As soon as it becomes available, the FCC is encouraging EAS Participants to log in and populate the system with as much “pre-fill” information as possible in advance of the test so as to facilitate the rapid submission of reports by EAS Participants once the test has concluded.
While EAS Participants are not required to submit their EAS test reports electronically, the FCC is encouraging electronic filing to provide the FCC with “real time results” from the test. As soon as practicable following the test, the FCC is urging EAS Participants to let the FCC know whether they (1) received the Emergency Action Notification and (2) if required to do so, were able to rebroadcast the test. Within 45 days following the test, all EAS Participants must provide a comprehensive and detailed diagnostic report to the FCC on the results of their participation in the test. This mandatory report can be filed either electronically or on paper.
Perhaps the most important action EAS Participants can take beyond educating the public (and hopefully state and local officials) in advance of the test, is to make sure that their EAS equipment is functioning properly and is actually attended by someone when the national test message is received on November 9. While the equipment is designed to automatically receive and retransmit test messages, nothing beats having someone there to monitor the process and ensure the test is relayed smoothly.
Stay tuned for further details on the test as they become available, including a discussion of the soon-to-be-operational FCC national test filing database and the not-yet-released EAS Handbooks to be used during the national test. Both should be made public any day now.