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Keeping up with the impending EAS deadlines and changes

After a lengthy period of relative quiet on the EAS front, there has been a flurry of FCC activity on the nation’s broadcast alerting system this year.

It’s important for all Texas broadcasters to be mindful of the upcoming FCC EAS regulatory deadlines and new developments on the EAS front.

“Last call” to get your FCC ETRS Form One done – deadline is Aug. 26

TAB has been beating the drums for several months now and we’re going to “hit the skins” one more time – you have until this Friday, Aug. 26 to get your station’s EAS Test Reporting System (ETRS), Form One done.

The FCC has provided stations three helpful links to help stations with their Form One questions:

Head to the ETRS Registration page on the FCC’s website to get the ball rolling.

“At the Registration page you’ll be asked to answer a dozen or so identifying questions,” said Harry Cole, an attorney with TAB Associate member law firm Fletcher Heald and Hildreth.

“Note in particular that you’ll be needing (among other things) the FRN and FRN password for the EAS participant being registered, so it’d be a good idea to have those handy when you start the process.”

Once a station is registered, it can begin completing ETRS Form One.

Cole recommends stations take a look at Form One before jumping in because it demands a number of things that most station staff will not know off the top of their head.

For example, what are your antenna coordinates?  The make and model of your EAS gear? The software version that gear is running?

Cole says stations can print out Form One at this link and he recommends stations “rough it in in pencil before logging on and trying to complete it online.”

It doesn’t have to be perfect, but it does have to be done by this Friday.

“According to senior FCC staff, participants that do not register by Aug. 26 will be deemed out of compliance,” said Laurie Flick, an attorney with TAB’s FCC counsel Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman.

If your station’s Form One isn’t perfect by this Friday, you will have until Sept. 26 to edit it.

The Form One hoopla is in advance of the FCC’s next nationwide test of EAS, scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 28, at 1:20 pm CT.

The test will start when FEMA sends the alert message, which will be in both English and Spanish.  

Flick points out that the Sept. 28 test will feature an EAS alert using a new nationwide test event code, NPT, and a new nationwide geographic zone code, 000000. 

As of July 30, 2016, all EAS Participants were required to have equipment in place capable of receiving and passing these codes. 

The test will last less than a minute and then the race will be on for stations to file ETRS Form Two, the so-called Day of Test Reporting.

It will be due by 10:59 pm CT on the day of the test itself, so stations will have to hustle because there are only about 10 hours to file Form Two.

Broadcasters are hoping the FCC’s ETRS can handle the crush of participants using the system at the same time.

Form Three, called “Detailed Test Reporting”, will be due by Nov. 14.

New FCC EAS Operating Handbook is now available

The FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau has just released the latest edition of its EAS Operating Handbook which broadcasters should download and keep with the station EAS log (both of which are FCC requirements).

And if there were any doubt about the requirement, the FCC made sure to remind you in the public notice about its release which says the revised Handbook must be “be located at normal duty positions or EAS equipment locations when an operator is required to be on duty and be immediately available to staff responsible for administering EAS tests.”

You can find the new revised Handbook here.

“Don’t think you can get away with using any previous version of Handbook,” said Fletcher Heald and Hildreth attorney Harry Cole.

“This new one supersedes all earlier versions and must be in place in time for the September 28 test.”

Cole has more details about the content and function of the handbook (more fill in the blanks, do-it-yourself, than ever before) in an excellent article this week from FHH’s

Changes coming to the Texas EAS monitoring assignment waiver process

TAB is awaiting the FCC’s final adoption of a revised Texas State EAS Plan currently before the commission but until that happens, we’re still operating on the pre-2012 version of the plan.

That being said, the revised plan is posted on the TAB website for download now.

While most of the plan revisions focused on code updates, additional weather radio stations available, operational procedures and even one local primary change, perhaps the most notable change will be to the EAS monitoring assignment waiver process.

Although much planning has gone into the creation, location and designation of monitoring assignments for Texas’ EAS regions, on occasion it may become evident that a radio or TV station may not be able to reliably receive EAS messages through the EAS monitoring assignments as designated for a region in the Texas State EAS Plan.

This may especially be the case with NWS WX radio station monitoring assignments in large, multi-county EAS regions.

There may also be problems with reception of the LP-1 or LP-2 station as designated for a region.

In such cases, an alternate EAS monitoring assignment may be sought and approved by waiver.

Since 1997, Texas’ EAS monitoring assignment changes were approved by the Texas State EAS Chair, but that changes under the new revised Texas State EAS Plan.

Once adopted by the FCC, radio and TV stations will request monitoring assignment waivers in writing from the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau (  or ).

Requestors should still contact TAB to discuss potential alternative monitoring options prior to requesting a waiver.

The waiver form requires requestors to note the problems with the monitoring assignment as set forth by the Texas State EAS Plan and to propose a suggested alternate EAS monitoring source.

Copies of each waiver will be supplied to the FCC.

Each station that receives a waiver should keep a copy of the request and acceptance with the station’s EAS plan.

Station personnel will want to show the waiver to any FCC inspector to demonstrate that the broadcaster is not ignoring its monitoring assignments set out in the state EAS Plan.

The reason for having it on hand is simple.

The FCC has fined stations thousands of dollars for failing to monitor an assigned EAS source.

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

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