Nationwide EAS Test Set for October 4 – Start Your Preparations Now
August 18, 2023
By: David Oxenford, Wilkinson Barker Knauer
FEMA and the FCC announced that this year’s Nationwide EAS Test is scheduled for October 4, 2023 (with a back-up date of October 11 in case there is a real or threatened event that occurs around October 4). FEMA will transmit the nationwide test of the EAS at 2:20 pm EDT on October 4, 2023 using the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS), the Internet-delivered warning system that has been required for broadcasters for about a dozen years. The test will be disseminated in English and Spanish as a Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) message using the Nationwide Test of the Emergency Alert System (NPT) code. FEMA issued a Release announcing the test. The FCC issued a much more extensive Public Notice which includes a list of recommended steps that broadcasters should take to prepare for the alert, and a reminder for broadcasters to be sure that their information in the EAS Test Reporting System (ETRS) is accurate and up-to-date.
While the steps recommended by the FCC to prepare for the test are all somewhat obvious, they should still be reviewed by broadcasters to make sure that they have not overlooked anything that can enhance their preparation for the test. Among the recommendations from the FCC are that the broadcaster review their role in their state’s EAS plan, and make sure that their equipment and software has been updated to the most current versions. The FCC also suggests making sure the EAS clock on station EAS equipment is synchronized with the official time used by the National Institute of Standards and Technology which is used by the IPAWS system. Having an accessible EAS Official Handbook and reviewing the handbook for instructions on the operation of the EAS system is also on the FCC’s list.
The FCC Public Notice also said that, by September 15, 2023, broadcasters should review and update, if necessary, their Form One information in ETRS. ETRS is the FCC filing system where stations report on the results of the EAS test. Form One is filed before the Test to provide the FCC with basic identifying information about the broadcaster and their EAS equipment. Form One was required to have been filed by all broadcasters by February 28, 2023 (with some limited exemptions for translators and satellite stations). The FCC has previously issued a reminder about that filing deadline, urging any broadcaster who did not timely file Form One to do so immediately. This September 15 deadline is for updates that result from station sales, moves, or other changes since Form One was filed. The FCC Public Notice provides more details on ETRS filings. ETRS Form Two must be filed by October 5 (or the day after the test if it is delayed) to report on the results of the test. Form Three, providing additional post-test information, must be filed by November 20, 2023.
Since the beginning of the year, broadcasters have been speculating about whether a Nationwide EAS Test would occur this year. Now we know that the test will be conducted. The purpose of the test is to make sure that the alerting system will work if there is a real emergency. Broadcasters should be using this time to make sure that all of their EAS systems are ready and fully operational so that they can relay any emergency message, real or a test, that comes their way.
David Oxenford is MAB’s Washington Legal Counsel and provides members with answers to their legal questions with the MAB Legal Hotline. Access information here. (Members only access). There are no additional costs for the call; the advice is free as part of your MAB membership.