The FCC and FEMA have established September 20, 2018 as the date for the next nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System (EAS). The nationwide test is designed to study the effectiveness of the EAS and to monitor the performance of EAS participants. The Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) system will be tested immediately prior to the test of the EAS. The FCC and FEMA have designated October 3, 2018 as the back-up date should circumstances prevent testing on September 20.
While the test itself is a month away, all EAS participants must file their Form One with the FCC by August 27, 2018 in preparation for the test. To make this filing, EAS participants must log in to the EAS Test Reporting System using an FCC Username Account. Those filers who do not already have an account can register for one in the FCC’s updated CORES system. Once a username account is set up, it will need to be associated with a licensee’s FCC Registration Number (FRN) before the user can draft or file forms for that licensee’s station(s). Many filers struggled to successfully register in past years, but those who participated in the annual test in 2017 should already be registered.
Form One requests information about a station’s transmitter location, EAS equipment, and the stations it is assigned to monitor. For most EAS participants, this information will prefill from last year’s Form One (so be particularly careful reviewing it if your monitoring assignments, equipment, or something else has changed since last year). Stations will also see an instruction to file a separate Form One for each encoder, decoder or combination unit. Most broadcasters will likely have a combination unit and therefore only need to file a single Form One. However, there may be situations where multiple filings are needed, for example where a cluster of co-owned radio stations share a studio but have to employ separate encoders and decoders to deal with stations in the group having different monitoring assignments.
As in the past, after the test is completed, participants must report the results of the test by filing Form Two, which requests abbreviated “day of test” data, and then Form Three, which collects more detailed data about the station’s performance.
To prepare for the test, the FCC recommends that EAS participants review the EAS Operating Handbook and be sure that it is available at normal duty positions or EAS equipment locations, and is otherwise readily accessible to employees responsible for managing EAS actions.
Participants should also use this time to ensure their facilities are in a state of “operational readiness.” Operators should confirm that their EAS equipment has any necessary software and firmware upgrades and that it is capable of receiving the various test codes. If not automatic, operators must also manually set their EAS equipment to the “official time” as established by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Each of these issues has been a significant cause of stations being unable to receive or transmit past tests.
Finally, the person filing for each station should verify that they have the right username, password, and licensee FRN in advance of the filing deadline. Experience from the the past two national tests revealed that many stations were caught off guard not by the test itself, but by their inability to access the ETRS to make required filings, often because of confusion surrounding how to log in.
Summer break notwithstanding, this is one test that broadcasters should study for ahead of time.