Nationwide Emergency Alert System – EAS Test Introduction

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Nationwide Emergency Alert System – EAS Test Introduction


National Safety and Security

SUMMARY:  FEMA, in coordination with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), will conduct the first nationwide Emergency Alert System (EAS) Test on November 9, at 2:00 p.m. Eastern. A more effective and functional EAS requires continual testing to identify necessary improvements so that all levels of the system can better serve our communities and deliver critical information that will save lives and property.

 ANALYSIS by Lt. Col Oz Hill (Ret.), Firestorm

The collaborative effort between FEMA, FCC, and NOAA, to conduct the first nationwide Emergency Alert System (EAS) Test on November 9, at 2:00 p.m. (Eastern), reflects the fundamental tenets of Firestorm’s PREDICT.PLAN.PERFORM.® methodology.

The test/exercise planners clearly understand the inevitable requirement for a timely and uniformed communications system that allows the President of the United States/National Command Authority to communicate with the entire country expediently and effectively during a national disaster or catastrophic incident/event.

To effectively accomplish this task requires an identification or prediction of likely disasters that meet the criteria for implementation of the EAS; planning to ensure technical capacity and procedural controls are adequate to ensure EAS effectiveness when circumstances require implementation; and training to ensure the public, technical experts, and administrators are prepared to fulfill their respective roles and responsibilities to optimize the EAS.

EAS Overview

On January 1, 1997, the Emergency Alert System, the country’s national warning system, was put into place to supersede the Emergency Broadcast System, which itself had superseded the CONELRAD System.  In addition to alerting the public of local weather emergencies such as tornadoes and flash floods, the official EAS is designed to enable the President of the United States to speak to the United States within 10 minutes, but the nationwide federal EAS has never been activated.

The EAS is used on AM, FM and Land Mobile Radio Service, as well as VHF, UHF and cable television including low-power stations. Digital television and cable providers, along with Sirius XM satellite radio, IBOC, DAB and digital radio broadcasters have been required to participate in the EAS since December 31, 2006. DirecTV, Dish Network and all other DBS providers have been required to participate since May 31, 2007.

The EAS regulations and standards are governed by the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau of the FCC. Each state and several territories have their own EAS plan. EAS is part of IPAWS – the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System, a program of Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). EAS is jointly coordinated by FEMA, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and the National Weather Service (NOAA/NWS).

All EAS equipment must be tested weekly. The required weekly test (RWT) consists, at a minimum, of the header and the end-of-message SAME bursts. Though a RWT does not need an audio or graphic message announcing the test, many stations will provide them as a courtesy to the public. Television stations are not required to transmit a video message for weekly tests. RWTs are scheduled by the station, on random days and times, and are generally not relayed.

EAS required monthly tests (RMTs) are generally originated by the primary relay station, a state emergency management agency, or by the National Weather Service (NOAA/NWS) and are then relayed by broadcast and cable stations. RMTs must be performed between 8:30 a.m. and local sunset during odd numbered months, and local sunset to 8:30AM for even months. Received monthly tests must be re-transmitted within 60 minutes from receipt. Additionally, an RMT should not be scheduled or conducted during an event of great importance such as a pre-announced Presidential speech, coverage of a national/local election, major local or national news coverage outside regularly scheduled newscast hours or a major sporting event.

Security Management, Business Continuity



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