FCC Issues Further NPRM to Nationally Test EAS

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Washington - Jan 12, 2010 - In a second further notice of proposed rulemaking, the Federal Communications Commission has proposed amendments to its Part 11 rules governing the Emergency Alert System (EAS) to provide for national testing of the EAS and collection of data from such tests. The FCC notes that the EAS or its predecessor systems have been used to deliver a presidential alert, and the rules do not currently mandate a test of the system nationally.

During the FCC chairman's recent 30-day review on FCC preparedness for major public emergencies, the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau noted that concerns had been raised regarding the frequency and scope of EAS testing. That FCC bureau recommends that the three Federal partners responsible for EAS -- the Commission, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the National Weather Service (NWS) -- review the testing regime to see where improvement could be made.

With this in mind, the FCC, FEMA, the NWS and the EOP have begun planning for a national EAS test, with subsequent tests to occur thereafter. To facilitate this test program, in the second further notice of proposed rulemaking, the FCC proposes to amend the EAS rules to specifically provide for national EAS testing and data collection.

The NPRM notes several potential weaknesses in the EAS. SOme of these weaknesses:

  • The daisy-chain structure in place in many state and local plans
  • EAS administration and testing by multiple agencies at multiple levels of operations
  • Lack of redundancy
  • Gaps in coverage
  • Lack of testing and training
  • Limitations on how alerts are disseminated to the public

    In preparation to create an annual national-level EAS test, the FCC, FEMA, the NWS and the EOP have formed a working group that is planning an initial national test of the presidential-level EAS. This test will involve nationwide transmission of the EAN and associated messages and codes within the EAS.

    The FCC seeks comment on the specific language of its proposed rule and its sufficiency to ensure an adequate framework for the conduct of national tests. It also seeks comment on whether the specific rule proposed is the best way to implement national testing of the EAS.

    Comment are due 30 days after publication in the Federal Register. Reply comments are due 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.

    Read the 2nd NPRM

    EB Docket No. 04-296

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