FCC Calls Nationwide EAS Test Successful

eas-logo_300The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) reports that the nationwide EAS test, conducted in September 2016, was a success, though it revealed “shortfalls” in some state-level EAS plans and other areas that could be improved.

FCC public safety officials note that improvements made to EAS after the first nationwide test five years ago, plus the implementation of a new online reporting system, “appear to have significantly improved test performance over what was observed during the 2011 test.”

The Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau identified several areas where the Commission could take steps to “potentially strengthen the EAS” and listed some examples, including:

Some EAS participants experienced poor quality audio and were not able to deliver the Spanish language alert because they received the test from an over-the-air broadcast source before their EAS equipment performed its regular check of the IPAWS internet feed, which typically occurs every 30 seconds. Requiring participants to check the internet-based IPAWS feed upon receiving a broadcast alert and transmit the corresponding CAP alert, if available, would ensure that the most timely and content-rich version of the alert is broadcast. This would be particularly important for time-sensitive alerts, such as earthquake early warnings, where seconds matter. The CAP alert would contain a clear digital audio file as well as any available text or audio files in languages other than English.

Some people with disabilities reported difficulty receiving or understanding alert text or audio. EAS tests can be made more accessible by applying the accessibility rules that already apply to live EAS alerts to EAS tests.

Some plans were difficult for EAS participants to locate, while others presented monitoring obligations and other information in a manner that EAS participants found difficult to implement. The FCC can take steps to further facilitate the centralization and standardization of plan information.

Some participants did not receive the alert because they did not properly configure or maintain their equipment. The FCC, in coordination with state emergency communications committees, state broadcast associations and other stakeholders, will use the test results to provide guidance to those EAS participants that experienced technical difficulties.The test included the first use of the FCC’s new online EAS Test Reporting System. The staff said it will continue to analyze the results in conjunction with FEMA and said it is continuing to accept late-filed test results.

Some 85% of test participants successfully retransmitted the test alert; 69% reported no complications in receiving or retransmitting. “Many EAS participants reported that the test alert that they received featured the high quality audio from the CAP-based alert that FEMA distributed via IPAWS.”

For the first time, 74 EAS participants retransmitted the IPAWS-generated Spanish language version of the alert. And reports from the commission’s Public Safety Support Center proved effective for collecting feedback and should continue to be used for EAS tests.

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