FCC Releases Report on the 2017 Nationwide Test of the Emergency Alert System

April 2018 - The Federal Communications Commission’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau (PSHSB) released a final report on the September 27, 2017, nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System (EAS). The report shows that the test was largely a success, stating that, “Overall, the 2017 Nationwide EAS Test demonstrated that Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) continues to deliver high-quality,  effective, and accessible EAS alerts and that EAS Participants’ results show improvement in several areas.” However, the report identifies some issues regarding accessibility, and steps to be taken within the next year to remedy these problems. Some of these issues include participants citing poor audio quality, instances where the text crawl was overlapped with other captioning or text on the screen, or its speed made it unreadable, and non-English language stations transmitting English language alerts, among others.  
Based on these reported problems, steps being taken to ensure accessibility include:
• Reaching out to specific stations to ensure future coordination of the alert crawl with closed captioning.
• Revising the EAS Test Reporting System (ETRS) Form Three to ensure the accessibility of the test alert for people with disabilities and non-English speakers.
• Improving alert accessibility to non-English speakers and those with disabilities by ensuring that EAS participants receive the transmission over IPAWS and not over-the air, as the former includes common alerting protocol-formatted (CAP) digital audio, Spanish and text files while the latter does not.
• Encourage “EAS participants to adopt best practices for the upkeep of EAS equipment, particularly regarding the updating of equipment software.”
• Continue collaborating with State’s Emergency Communications Committee (SECC) and “EAS equipment manufacturers to reach out to EAS participants to encourage them to update their EAS equipment and software to ensure successful participation in tests and compliance with the Commission’s rules.”
The PSHSB will continue working with FEMA, the SECCs, and EAS participants around the nation to improve the accessibility and reliably of EAS. As many people with disabilities depend on upon this information during times of crisis, it is vital that these alerts be made accessible to all citizens. [Source: Federal Communications Commission]


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