Special via David Oxenford, Wilkinson Barker Knauer LLP
Last week, the FCC issued a Public Notice announcing an August 11, 2021 nationwide EAS test, with a backup date of August 25 if there are conditions that prevent the test from occurring on the initial date. The test is scheduled for 2:20 PM EDT. For broadcasters, this test will be conducted using the over-the-air “daisy-chain” system, where primary stations in various geographic areas initiate the test, and the message is passed from station to station based on monitoring assignments set out in each station’s statewide EAS plan. Stations should be checking their EAS encoders and decoders now to be sure that all is working properly to transmit and receive this test.
The Public Notice reminds broadcasters to check all their EAS operations at their facilities before the upcoming test. Specifically, the FCC suggests that each station should be doing the following:
- Reviewing the EAS Operating Handbook for the actions to be taken by operators upon receipt of the test alert, and tailoring any actions as necessary that are specific to the EAS Participants’ facilities;
- Reviewing their State EAS Plan for monitoring assignments and ensuring that EAS equipment is accurately configured to monitor those sources;
- Ensuring that EAS equipment can receive and process the NPT code, the “six zeroes” national location code, and otherwise operate in compliance with the Commission rules;
- Upgrading EAS equipment software and firmware to the most recent version;
- Manually synchronizing EAS equipment clocks to the official time provided by the National Institute of Standards and Technology if an EAS Participant’s equipment does not automatically synchronize to an Internet time source; and
- Reviewing their 2021 ETRS Form One filings to identify and make necessary updates to the information previously provided (see below for more information on ETRS).
The Notice also sets July 6, 2021 as the deadline for all stations to complete their “2021 ETRS Form One” setting out information about each station’s EAS decoders, encoders or combined units. ETRS is the system that reports on the results of the EAS tests. Test results will need to be filed on Form Two in ETRS on August 11 or 12, with more detailed information about the results of the test to be submitted in a Form Three by September 27, 2021. The FCC provides information as to accessing the ETRS system and suggests that stations start looking at Form One now to make sure that they can access the system and verify that the information is complete and accurate by the July 6 deadline. This public notice makes clear that now is the time for all stations to review their EAS equipment, and the ETRS Forms, to get ready for the nationwide test.