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FCC Finalizes Details of Presidential Emergency Alert Test

The test is designed to assist the FCC in coordinating FEMA and the National Weather Service.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued the final rule concerning tests of the “Emergency Alert System,” including broadcasts of “a national presidential alert.”

The FCC final rule—Review of the Emergency Alert System—was posted on the Federal Register on March 8, 2011, the same day the regulation became effective. The document amends FCC rules governing the EAS to provide for national EAS testing and collection of data from such tests that “will help determine whether the EAS functions as intended to deliver a national presidential alert,” the commission says.

On Feb. 3, 2011 the FCC voted unanimously to set rules facilitating the federal government’s efforts to conduct a national EAS test by transmitting a “presidential alert” from Washington, D.C. to television and radio broadcasters, cable systems and satellite service providers who will then deliver the alert to the American public.

The test is designed to assist the FCC in coordinating the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the National Weather Service (NWS), the commission said. The test is also expected to help the FCC assess the current system and determine what improvements need to be made to further strengthen the nation’s EAS, particularly as broadband technologies continue to emerge.

The final rule posted on the Federal Register summarizes the FCC’s “Third Report and Order,” which amends the commission’s EAS rules and which requires EAS test participation. The EAS tests will be scheduled by the FCC in consultation with FEMA, and the first national EAS test use the Emergency Alert Notification, the live event code for nationwide presidential alerts, according to the document. Among the changes listed in the Order are:

  • •That the national test replace the monthly and weekly EAS tests.
  • •That the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau (PSHSB) provide at least two months public notice prior to any national test of the EAS.
  • •That EAS participants submit test-related data to the PSHSB within 45 days following a national EAS test
  • •That test data received from EAS participants be treated as presumptively confidential, but that test data to be shared on a confidential basis with other federal agencies and state governmental emergency management agencies that have confidentiality protection as least equal to that provided by the Freedom of Information Act.

The Order also says the FCC is to issue a public notice establishing a voluntary electronic reporting system that EAS test participants may use as part of their participation in the national EAS test. It also authorizes the PSHSB to determine various administrative procedures for national tests, including test codes and pre-test outreach.

Pursuant to the Congressional Review Act, the FCC will send a copy of the “Third Report & Order” to Congress and the Government Accountability Office, according to the Federal Register notice.