This is only a test.
That’s what listeners will see and/or hear at 2:20pm Wednesday (9/27) — unless there’s a true emergency that unfolds.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the FCC are on schedule for its nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System.
Given the surfeit of storms that have brought havoc to Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, Wednesday’s test of the nation’s Emergency Alert System (EAS) is certainly a very important one for broadcasters.
What should broadcasters be prepared for? Dan Kirkpatrick of Fletcher Heald & Hildreth is the D.C.-area law firm’s main attorney providing broadcast media clients counsel on compliance with FCC regulations affecting their day-to-day operations, as well as in the context of sale, purchase, and financing transactions.
He notes in a blog post at the firm’s CommLawBlog that EAS participants should have filed their ETRS Form 1 providing information about their EAS equipment by this point. Come Wednesday, the FCC will expect that stations monitor their equipment and, for most stations, file a “day-of-test” ETRS Form 2 by the end of the day.
What about areas recently impacted by Hurricane Maria, Hurricane Irma, and Hurricane Harvey?
In a Public Notice released late Friday, the Media Bureau gave EAS participants located in areas of Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas impacted by the hurricanes — in addition to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands — until Nov. 13 to file their Form 2 reports.
That’s the date all EAS participants will be required to file a post-test ETRS Form 3.
Based on the form as currently available in ETRS (which will not be “live” for filing until the 27th), participants will simply be required to certify whether the station received and retransmitted the national test message, Kirkpatrick notes.
Be prepared for traffic delays, he adds.
“Based on our experience with last year’s test, we would expect that there will be some congestion in the ETRS system after the test, so you should probably be prepared to spend some time completing your filings,” Kirkpatrick says.