The FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau (PSHSB) has released its comprehensive report on the country’s nationwide Emergency Alert System (EAS) test conducted September 27, 2017 at 2:20 p.m. EDT, which was mandatory for all EAS Participants. The 2017 Nationwide EAS Test was designed to assess the reliability and effectiveness of the EAS, with an emphasis on testing FEMA’s Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS). IPAWS is the gateway through which common alerting protocol-formatted (CAP-formatted) EAS alerts are disseminated to EAS Participants for transmission to the public. Among the PSHSB’s findings are the following: (1) 95.8% of test participants successfully received the test alert, as compared to 95.4% in 2016; (2) 91.9% of test participants successfully retransmitted the test alert, as compared to 85.8% in 2016; and (3) 58.1% of test participants first received the test over-the-air rather than from IPAWS (as compared to 56.5% in 2016), and thus were unable to deliver the CAP-formatted digital audio, Spanish, and text files, which likely would have improved alert accessibility to non-English speakers and those with disabilities.
Test performance broken down by EAS Participant type was another data point tracked by the PSHSB. The following statistics show the success rate, broken down by EAS Participant Type, of the percentage of times that an EAS messages was “Successfully Received” and “Successfully Re-Transmitted”: Radio Broadcasters (97.3%/94.0%); Television Broadcasters (88.6%/83.5%); Cable Systems (95.7%/90.3%); IPTV Providers (97.4%/86.8%); and Wireline Video Systems (97.9%/93.8%). While more EAS Participants were able to monitor IPAWS in 2017 versus prior years, the report shows no increase in IPAWS as the first source from which EAS Participants receive the EAS alert message.
For the 2018 test, the PSHSB intends to do the following: (1) encourage EAS Participants to adopt best practices for the upkeep of EAS equipment, particularly regarding the updating of equipment software; (2) reach out to stations referenced in filings with the Public Safety Support Center and other Commission records to ensure future coordination of alert crawl with closed captioning; (3) revise ETRS Form Three (the final and most detailed “test results form required by the FCC) to address accessibility of the test alert to people with disabilities and non-English speakers; and (4) work with State Emergency Coordination Committees 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 the test and compliance with the Commission’s rules.