FCC Sets Emergency Alert System Test Date

Broadcasters and cable operators will need to bone up for a test this fall.

The FCC has set Sept. 28, 2016, at 2:20 p.m. for a nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System (EAS).

The backup date is Oct. 5 and broadcasters and cable operators, who have to participate in the test, must be ready for either date.

The FCC is conducting the test in coordination with FEMA, with a focus on FEMA’s Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) that disseminates the alerts to the various participants.

Related: Senate Passes Emergency Warning Update Bill.

IPAWS delivers alerts to multiple platforms (TV, radio, cellphones, computers, home phones and electronic billboards). IPAWS allows emergency authorities to write their own messages, authenticates them and delivers them to the various platforms.

"The Emergency Alert System is our national public warning system," FCC chairman Tom Wheeler said back in January as the FCC voted to give local communities more say in alerts and seek stakeholder comment on the future of the system. "We most often associate the EAS with severe weather warnings.  But in recent months we’ve seen attacks in Paris, San Bernardino, and other locations that remind us of the many scenarios where community preparedness and incident response tools are vital."

Participants must register for the test by Aug. 26 and are advised to get ready by, among other things, upgrading their EAS software and firmware and synchronize their clocks.

The FCC also wants the viewing and listening public to weigh in with any problems they observe.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.