FCC OKs ‘Presidential Alert’ Emergency Broadcast

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The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved actions that will pave the way for the first-ever “Presidential alert” to be broadcast across the United States on the nation’s “Emergency Alert System” (EAS), the FCC says.

However, while the FCC has begun to facilitate the EAS test broadcast, no date has been selected for that broadcast to air, the agency says. Nonetheless, the FCC says the national test will help determine the reliability of the EAS system and its effectiveness in notifying the public of emergencies and potential danger nationwide and regionally.

On Feb. 3, 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 agency says. 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.

As “next generation” EAS systems become operational over the next few years, they will complement other public alert and warning systems now being developed, including FEMA’s “Integrated Public Alert and Warning System” (IPAWS) and the “Commercial Mobile Alert System” which is to enable consumers to receive alerts through a variety of multi-media platforms on their smart-phones, blackberries and other mobile broadband devices, the FCC says.

The national test will require EAS participants to be part of the exercise and to receive and transmit a live code that includes a presidential alert message to their respective viewers and listeners.

Prior to the test, the FCC, FEMA and the NWS will conduct a national EAS “Public Education and Awareness Campaign” targeting consumers, with a focus on persons with disabilities and seniors, as well as first responders and state, local and tribal governments. The outreach is to ensure that the American public is aware that the national test will be conducted and the benefits of these kinds of public alerts in a real emergency.