The next nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System (EAS), will occur on September 20, 2018. This test will include multiple forms of communication; distributed by broadcasters through the Emergency Alert System (EAS) and all participating mobile service providers in what is now called the Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) system. Should problems occur, a backup date is set for October 3, 2018.
Because the test also includes mobile service providers, broadcasters should note that their streaming listeners may receive the warning in two ways: by text message through the digital stream and through the over-the-air broadcast message.
THE NATIONWIDE TEST
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will conduct the test using the Presidential Alert classification. The WEA alert will occur at 2:18 pm Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) and will be received by streaming listeners. Two minutes later, the EAS live alert will be issued. The WEA message will state:
“THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed.”
At 2:20 pm EDT the EAS test will issue. The test is mandatory for all EAS Participants. The EAS message will be disseminated by the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS). PEP stations will not be used. The IPAWS message will state:
THIS IS A TEST of the National Emergency Alert System. This system was developed by broadcast and cable operators in voluntary cooperation with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Federal Communications Commission, and local authorities to keep you informed in the event of an emergency. If this had been an actual emergency an official message would have followed the tone alert you heard at the start of this message. A similar wireless emergency alert test message has been sent to all cell phones in the nation. Some cell phones will receive the message. Others will not. No action is required.
The EAS alert will be transmitted in audio and in text in both English and Spanish. The text can be used for a video crawl. Note: it is not necessary to transmit both the English and Spanish. It is recommended that you choose the language most suitable for your audience.
BROADCASTER FILING OBLIGATIONS.
Broadcasters have three important filing dates that require reporting in the EAS Test Reporting System. The system login requires the use of an FCC username account which is personal to the actual person making the filing. If you do not already have a username account, register for one at the FCC’s updated CORES system. Then make sure the username account is associated with your FCC Registration Number (FRN). If the account is not associated with your FRN, you will not be able to file the required forms.
- Form One - August 27, 2018: All EAS Participants must register with the EAS Test Reporting System (ETRS) and complete ETRS Form One.
- Form Two - September 20, 2018: EAS Participants must file the “day of test” information on ETRS Form Two. EAS Participants are required to file “day of test” data before 11:59 p.m. EDT on September 20th.
- Form 3 - November 5, 2018: EAS Participants must file the detailed post-test data on ETRS Form Three.
PREPARE FOR THE TEST
- All EAS Participants should prepare now for the test.
- Download a copy of the EAS Operating Handbook, and review it for proper procedures. Place a copy at normal broadcast duty positions, or EAS equipment locations. Make sure it is immediately available to operators. The EAS Operating Handbook can be downloaded at https://www.fcc.gov/general/eas-test-reporting-system.
- Make sure an experienced operator is on hand for the EAS test. There have been times when an inexperienced board operator mistakenly issued a live test alert which, understandably, caused serious problems.
- Ensure that your EAS equipment can receive and process the national periodic test code, the “six zeros” national location code, and is otherwise is compliant with Commission rules.
- Verify that your EAS Equipment, software and firmware have been upgraded with the latest versions.
- Review and be familiar with the 2018 ETRS Form One so that all necessary information can be provided.
- If your equipment does not automatically synchronize to an internet time source, manually synchronize EAS equipment clocks with the National Institute of Standards.
Make sure you have information on the station’s transmitter location, EAS equipment and the station you are assigned to monitor. If the form is pre-filled with information from last year, be careful to review it and ensure that it continues to be valid information.
*This column is provided for general information purposes only and should not be relied upon as legal advice pertaining to any specific factual situation. Legal decisions should be made only after proper consultation with a legal professional of your choosing.