Alerts & Notifications

FCC Extension Won't Affect National EAS Test

A FEMA official says the extension of the deadline for installing new Emergency Alert System will have "not affect whatsoever" on the first-ever national EAS test, scheduled for November 9th.

by Rick Wimberly / September 19, 2011

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has again extended the deadline for installing new equipment to receive Emergency Alert System (EAS) alerts via Common Alerting Protocol (CAP).  Until the new ruling, the deadline for the new equipment was a few days from now, September 20th.  

Many broadcasters, including the National Association of Broadcasters, and cable operators complained.  They argued that EAS participants (broadcasters, cable operators, certain satellite program providers) hadn't been given sufficient info to upgrade their equipment.  One broadcast group said, "Without an extension, EAS participants will be forced to buy equipment without a guarantee it will meet future certification requirements."  (The FCC order can be found here.)

The first-ever national EAS test is scheduled for November 9th at 2pm (eastern time).  However, the extension will have "no affect whatsoever" on the test, says Manny Centeno, the FEMA official with the lead on the national test.  

It was somewhat coincidental that the equipment deadline and the national test were scheduled within a couple months of one another.  The national test was not intended to test the new equipment, but rather some of the other recent enhancements of EAS.  Plus, FEMA and other federal officials want to establish a benchmark for determining how well EAS works so a Congressional mandate to enhance EAS can be met.

FEMA didn't take an official stand on the request for the extension (which was up to the FCC since it regulates broadcast and cable).  But, FEMA did note in a filing with the FCC that IPAWS-OPEN, the message "switch" FEMA is building to help facilitate EAS and other types of alerts, wouldn't be ready in time for the September 20th deadline.  IPAWS-OPEN is in the test stage.  A video found here provides a good explanation of IPAWS-OPEN.

Like me, EAS goes back to the 1950s.  It was originally established during the Cold War to make sure the President could address the public in the event of an imminent threat to the U.S.  No President has ever used the system and it has never been tested nationally.  But, it is tested and used often on a local and statewide basis.  (See our earlier blog for info on a toolkit available that will help public safety officials prepare for the national test in November.)

All the best,