FCC Creates New Reporting System for Emergency Alerts
Tuesday, April 10, 2018 | Comments

The FCC released a report and order that establishes the Alert Reporting System (ARS) for the nationwide Emergency Alert System (EAS). The ARS will create a comprehensive online filing system for the EAS by combining the existing EAS Test Reporting System (ERTS) with a new, streamlined electronic system for filing state EAS plans.

ARS will replace paper-based filing requirements; minimize burdens on state emergency communications committees (SECC); and allow the FCC, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and other authorized entities to better access up-to-date information about the EAS, the FCC said.

The commission said that moving the state plan filing process online will provide a baseline level of uniformity, in terms of both format and terminology, across the different state plans, while affording sufficient flexibility to accommodate filers’ unique needs.

“We believe that the ARS will ensure more efficient and effective delivery of presidential as well as state, local and weather-related alerts as it will provide the commission, FEMA and other authorized entities with the means to more easily review and identify gaps in EAS architectures, detect problems and take measures to address these shortcomings,” the order said.

The order also amends sections of the EAS rules to define current EAS designations. The FCC noted that SECCs have used EAS designations inconsistently in the past, which inhibits the commission’s ability to determine the quality of the state and national level broadcast-based EAS and may inhibit delivery of a presidential alert. The order refines the EAS designations in a way that can accommodate variations while promoting uniformity among state EAS plans.

In addition, the commission specified and standardized the organizational and operational aspects of state EAS plans to provide a level of consistency necessary for efficient and reliable distribution of emergency information to the public.

Compliance with the state plans EAS content rules and electronic submission will be required within one year of publication in the Federal Register of a public notice announcing Office of Management and Budget (OMB) approval of ARS information collection requirements or the availability of the ARS to receive such information, whichever is later. The new designations will become effective at the same time, as well.

The FCC will also require state plans to be updated on a yearly basis. State can satisfy this requirement on the form each year that the plan is up-to-date, if changes haven’t been made.

In a statement, the FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said the new rules provided needed changes to the emergency alerting system but added that more work remains.

“The FCC can do more by acting as a convening force to report and incentivize best practices for emergency alerting,” she said. “In addition, we need to act with dispatch on the other aspects of this docket that this order does not address, including false alerting. Especially in light of the false emergency alert earlier this year in Hawaii, this work should be our priority.”

The EAS came under public scrutiny early this year after a false alert of an imminent ballistic missile attack was sent to Hawaiian citizens. A report found that a combination of human error and inadequate safeguards contributed to the transmission of the false alert.

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