Summary of FCC EAS Sixth Report and Order

June 22, 2015
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The following is a detailed summary of FCC EAS 6th Report and Order (R&O). (For a more concise overview, see my Radio World e-posting.)

 

 

Summary of FCC EAS Sixth Report and Order

Adopted: June 1, 2015 Released: June 3, 2015

Document #: FCC 15-60

https://apps.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/FCC-15-60A1.docx

https://apps.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/FCC-15-60A1.pdf

Effective Date: 30 days after appearing in the Federal Register, however, none of the rules take effect on that date but rather have phase-in timelines of from 60 days to 12 months.

The R&O deals only with the four items on which the FCC solicited input in its June 24, 2014 NPRM. Rules covering those four items now lay the groundwork for the next nationwide EAS test, which appears to have been the primary goal of this rulemaking [FCC Para. 53: The improvements we adopt today are responsive to operational inconsistencies uncovered by the first nationwide EAS test.] In reality, the FCC could not have instituted any additional rules, as it did not ask for comment on anything further in the 2014 NPRM.

FCC Para. 2 synopsis of the new rules:

In this Sixth Report and Order, we strengthen the EAS by establishing specific operational standards for use during future tests and actual emergencies. In particular:

  • We adopt “six zeroes” (000000) as the national location code pertaining to every state and county in the United States, and we require EAS Participants to use equipment capable of processing this location code. [must be implemented within 12 months of R&O effective date];
  • We require that EAS Participants’ equipment be capable of processing a National Periodic Test (NPT) event code for future nationwide EAS tests to bring consistency to the operation of EAS equipment in future national, regional, state and local activations. [must be implemented within 12 months of R&O effective date];
  • We require EAS Participants to file test data in an Electronic Test Report System (ETRS) that has been constructed to be a practical, accessible, and minimally burdensome tool for recording EAS dissemination data and developing an FCC Mapbook that can illustrate the manner in which an EAS alert is propagated throughout part or all of the United States. [EAS Participants must verify the pre-populated ETRS data on their facility within 60 days of a separate ETRS notice in the Federal Register, or 60 days after the ETRS is launched, whichever is later.];
  • We require EAS Participants to comply with minimum accessibility rules, in order to ensure that EAS visual messages are readable and accessible to all members of the public, including people with disabilities. [must be implemented within 6 months of R&O effective date].

FCC Workshop:

In addition, in Para. 50, the Commission ordered a 5th very important step – an FCC workshop.

The Commission directs its Public Safety & Homeland Security Bureau (PSHSB) to host a workshop within 3 months of the adoption of the R&O (thus that clock started on June 1, 2015). PSHSB is to collaborate with FEMA and other relevant EAS stakeholders in this effort. The two key issues to be discussed are:

  • Improvement of alert accessibility;
  • Increasing the flexibility of the EAS to expand its use by emergency managers at the state and local levels. [Something that many in the EAS community have been advocating for years.]

The FCC continues, “The workshop should discuss methods to empower and encourage state and local emergency managers to utilize the EAS and Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA)…” Finally, “The Commission may refer additional issues arising out of the workshop to the Communications Security, Reliability and interoperability Council (CSRIC) or other FCC federal advisory committee.”

Details on the four rules adopted:

000000 EAS Location Code:

Pretty straight forward new rule. Some manufacturers report that a software upgrade is needed to bring their EAS units into compliance. Other manufacturers clarify that their EAS units are already in compliance.

NPT Event Code:

FCC Para. 20: Commenters unanimously agree that the NPT – not the EAN, and not an NPT that is reprogrammed to fully emulate the EAN – should be the national test event code. Accordingly, and for reasons discussed in further detail below, we adopt the NPT as the test event code for the purpose of nationwide EAS testing, and further require that the NPT as used in such tests be limited in duration to two minutes or less, and have normal priority. In order to comply with FEMA’s stated intent that the NPT be disseminated with the “same immediacy as the EAN,” we further require that the NPT be retransmitted immediately upon receipt. We also reiterate that any national or occasional “special” EAS tests referred to in the Part 11 rules that use the NPT will replace the required monthly test (RMT) of the EAS for any month in which such an NPT-based test is scheduled.

ETRS:

The ETRS will largely follow the structure of the system used in collecting data on the 2011 Nationwide EAS Test, which was composed of three forms. Form One asked each EAS Participant for identifying and background information, including EAS designation, EAS monitoring assignments, facility location, equipment type, contact information, and other relevant data. Form Two asked each EAS Participant whether it received the Nationwide EAS Test alert code and, if required to do so, whether the EAS Participant propagated the alert code downstream. Form Three asked each EAS Participant to submit detailed information regarding its receipt and propagation, if applicable, of the alert code, including an explanation of any complications in receiving or propagating the code. Expect a similar structure in the ETRS.

In addition, the ETRS will have features not used in 2011. FCC Para. 27: For example, in order to minimize EAS Participants’ filing burden, the ETRS database will be pre-populated with the types of identifying information (e.g., broadcaster call letters and geographic location of transmitters) that EAS providers have provided in the Universal Licensing System and related FCC databases. We find that pre-populating the ETRS in this manner is technically feasible and will encourage timely filings by streamlining the process and reducing burdens on filers significantly. We thus require that the ETRS have this functionality. Further, we agree that EAS Participants should be able to review their filings prior to final submission, to retrieve previous filings to correct errors for thirty days after submission, and to provide filers with a filing receipt verifying submission of a completed report.

We also agree that the integration of ETRS data into the EAS Mapbook will “ease the data-entry burden on EAS Participants and make the best use of the Commission’s time and resources,” and that the advent of ETRS gives the Commission the tool it needs to create the data tables necessary to complete it. The EAS Mapbook will also allow the Commission to maintain a centralized database containing all EAS monitoring assignments and alert distribution pathways, enabling new analyses of alert distribution at the national, state, and local levels. Accordingly, we require that the ETRS have the capability to create maps that indicate the propagation of an EAN throughout the EAS architecture. Finally, subsequent to any nationwide EAS test, we require EAS Participants to submit detailed information regarding their receipt and propagation, if applicable, of the alert code, including an explanation of any complications in receiving or propagating the code.

FCC Para. 28: The ETRS will require filers to supply contact information related to the individual who completes the form, and ETRS will allow for batch filings on multiple facilities.

Regarding data confidentiality… there was a proposal for the State Emergency Communications Committees (SECCs) to have access to the ETRS data. However, in Para. 32 the FCC states, “It is not feasible to provide SECCs with such access without compromising the confidentiality of EAS Participant’s filings, or risking that the SECC might unintentionally delete or corrupt a filing. Rather, we will, upon request from an SECC, provide the SECC with a report of their state’s aggregated data. SECCs can use these reports to remedy monitoring anomalies evident from EAS Participant filings in their state.”

FCC Para. 33 states: The PSHSB is to release a subsequent public notice, providing additional information regarding the implementation of the ETRS closer to the launch date of the ETRS, and as subsequently required for future EAS tests and State EAS Plan filings.

New Visual Display Rules:

FCC Para. 39 states: First, in addition to requiring that the EAS visual message, whether video crawl or block text, be displayed in a manner that is consistent with our current rules (i.e., “at the top of the television screen or where it will not interfere with other visual messages”), we amend Sections 11.51(d), (g)(3), (h)(3) and (j)(2) of the Commission’s EAS rules to require that the visual message also be displayed in a size, color, contrast, location, and speed that is readily readable and understandable.

FCC Para. 40: For the purposes of our rules, we do not mandate a specific crawl speed or font size, nor do we believe such specificity is necessary at this time. Instead, we afford EAS Participants the flexibility to implement this requirement in accordance with their particular best practices and equipment capabilities. EAS Participants that use devices that display block text must nonetheless generate such text in a manner that remains on the screen for a sufficient length of time to be read.

FCC Para. 41: We also amend Sections 11.51(d), (g)(3), (h)(3) and (j)(2) of the Commission’s EAS rules to require that the EAS visual message be displayed in its entirety at least once during any EAS alert message.

FCC Para. 42: As we note above, we reiterate our requirement that the EAS visual message shall “be displayed at the top of the television screen or where it will not interfere with other video messages,” and we amend Section 11.51(d), (g)(3), (h)(3) and (j)(2) to require that the visual message not (1) contain overlapping lines of EAS text or (2) extend beyond the viewable display except for crawls that intentionally scroll on and off of the screen.

FCC Para. 48: We require that the audio portion of any EAS alert must play in full at least once during any EAS message.

Proposed rule not adopted: FCC Para. 47: We decline to adopt rules requiring audiovisual synchronicity at this time. We agree with commenters that alert originators have primary control over audiovisual synchronicity because they are the only party in a position to initiate a message that contains identical audio and text elements.

Proposed rule not adopted: FCC Para. 49: We agree with commenters that while Text-to-Speech (TTS) is an appropriate technology for rendering alert audio in some cases, and may support audiovisual parity when combined with CAP text, we do not mandate its use at this time. The technology is maturing, but mandating its use may require extensive and costly changes to EAS equipment for small EAS Participants. We will continue to monitor the feasibility of adopting TTS requirements as the technology continues to evolve.

Outstanding Items that must be addressed in Future EAS Rulemakings:

FCC R&O Footnote #1 identifies these topics for future rulemakings:

As we indicated in the EAS Operational Issues NPRM, we will, in future proceedings, consider further enhancements to the EAS, such as:

  • Considering and taking action on recent and future recommendations of the Commission’s Communications Security, Reliability, and Interoperability Council (CSRIC) regarding the streamlining of the EAS State Plan process, and
  • The addition of other elements of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) to the testing paradigm.

They note that their 2014 NPRM states that they:

  • Plan to take action, in a future proceeding, on EAS security issues, among others.

One of those other issues mentioned in the 2014 NPRM involves:

  • Standardizing the waiver process for EAS “live code” exercises.

In addition, the FCC deferred a number of decisions on filed comments in the 2012 Fifth EAS R&O until after the completion of the FCC review of the Nationwide EAS Test data. That report was issued on April 12, 2013. Of the deferred items, the FCC has now ruled on one (the 000000 code) and has said it will address part of another (State EAS Plan rules), which still leaves the disposition of these deferred items:

  • Revision or elimination of the FCC Mapbook now required in each State EAS Plan in EAS Rule 11.21(c). [2012 5th R&O paragraph 119]
  • Possible new rules on State EAS Plans and SECC authority and responsibilities. [2012 5th R&O paragraph 274]
  • Whether manual operation of EAS equipment should be allowed for processing the EAN. [2012 5th R&O paragraph 202]
  • If the EAS Operating Handbook now required to be posted at all normal duty positions in EAS Rule 11.15 should be eliminated. [2012 5th R&O paragraph 210]
  • Response to a commenter on a request that translators and satellite stations no longer be exempted from having EAS equipment so that they may carry State and local alerts. [2012 5th R&O paragraph 268]
  • Possible changes to the current Required Weekly Test (RWT) and Required Monthly Test (RMT) rules. [2012 5th R&O paragraph 277]

 

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