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EAS Monitor Assignment Waiver Approval Process Just Got Easier

The receipt and relay of an Emergency Alert System (EAS) Required Monthly Test (RMT) or Required Weekly Test (RWT) has been a regular part of station operations since EAS became operational Jan. 1, 1997.

In a state as large as Texas, distance, interference, or atmospheric issues can cause problems for the reliable delivery of the RMT or RWT.

That could spell problems for a station seeking to relay EAS messages in the event of an actual emergency.

As EAS shook off its operational kinks those first few years of operation and reception issues became clear, stations sought waivers for a station’s assigned EAS monitoring assignments contained in the Texas State EAS Plan.

Typically, stations contacted TAB to discuss monitoring options with TAB staff before seeking an EAS monitoring assignment.

TAB’s goal then and now is to help stations find monitoring options that worked reliably, whatever they might be.

This process could be extremely challenging in rural areas where monitoring options were slim.

TAB’s longtime President and FCC appointed State Emergency Communications Chairman, the late Ann Arnold, issued many such waivers during the first 15 years of EAS operations.

With Arnold’s passing in 2012, TAB President Oscar Rodriguez picked up the waiver review and approval duties as the new State Emergency Communication Chairman.

That stopped in 2015 when the FCC announced that stations would instead have to seek a waiver from the commission.

It could be a lengthy process partly because the FCC lacked the manpower needed to handle the number of waiver requests received nationally, and the knowledge of the local operational issues such as topography, distance, interference, or monitoring options.

Most recently, waivers could only be submitted during the 30 days prior to a State Emergency Communications Committee’s (SECC) annual update of that state’s EAS plan filed with the FCC.

In June, the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau issued a Public Notice that should make seeking a waiver a less lengthy and laborious process.

It’s something of a return to the way it once was.

“SECCs now can submit to the FCC an updated monitoring assignment in their EAS Plans at any time,” said David Oxenford, an attorney with TAB Associate member law firm Wilkerson Barker Knauer.

“In fact, the Bureau urged EAS Participants to begin to immediately monitor new EAS sources when they can no longer receive an old source reliably, without waiting for formal approval.”

TAB welcomes this FCC change as an acknowledgement by the commission that stations should be able to quickly find EAS monitoring assignments that work and implement them quickly as well.

The public’s safety relies on it.

Questions? Contact TAB’s Michael Schneider or call (512) 322-9944.

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