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Blog Posts by Lisa Fowlkes

A First-Ever National Test of the Presidential EAS

by Lisa Fowlkes, Deputy Bureau Chief, Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau
February 4, 2011 - 09:44 AM

Yesterday we released an order that adopts rules establishing the basic framework for national tests of the Presidential Emergency Alert System (EAS). The EAS is a national alert and warning system established to enable the President of the United States to address the American public during emergencies. Governors and state and local emergency authorities also use it — on a voluntary basis — to issue more localized emergency alerts. Under the FCC’s rules, broadcasters, cable operators, Satellite Digital Audio Radio Service providers, Direct Broadcast Satellite service providers and wireline video service providers are required to receive and transmit Presidential EAS messages to the public.

To date, the EAS has not been used to deliver a Presidential alert. While various components of the system are tested regularly, there has never been a nationwide, top-to-bottom, test of the system. In 2009, the FCC, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the National Weather Service (NWS) and the Executive Office of the President (EOP) (collectively, the “Federal Partners”) began planning to conduct the first-ever national test. As part of this effort, on January 6, 2010 and January 26, 2011, FEMA, along with the State of Alaska and the Alaska Broadcasters Association, conducted two “live code” tests of the Presidential EAS within Alaska. A “live code” test uses the same codes that would be used during an actual activation of the Presidential EAS. The Federal Partners are using the results and lessons learned from these tests to complete a test plan for the first ever National EAS test.

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Multilingual Emergency Alerts: More Than Just Alerting

August 16, 2010 - 11:41 AM

It is indisputable that broadcast radio and television plays a critical role during times of disaster.  One need only look at the role broadcast played in delivering critical emergency news and information during the snowstorms of 2010 that blanketed the Northeast, recent tornadoes, floods and the hurricanes of 2008 and 2005 to know the pivotal role broadcast plays in ensuring the safety of life.  When disasters hit, it is imperative that all of us receive timely alerts and warnings, access to the latest information about an emergency situation, and guidance from government officials on what we should do to protect ourselves and our families.  For most of us, access to this information before, during and after a disaster is so commonplace, it is taken for granted.

Imagine, however, being one of the significant population that does not speak English.  If you are lucky, you have access to least one broadcast station that airs programming in your language.  If a disaster occurs, you expect that you will be able to receive Emergency Alert System (EAS) alerts, as well as other warnings and critical emergency information from that station.  But, what happens if that station has lost power and is no longer operating?  Where will you receive information regarding access to food or shelter?  How will you learn how to report or locate a missing relative?  How will you know about the best evacuation route?

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21st Century Emergency Alerting Workshop on June 10th

June 7, 2010 - 01:09 PM

Don’t Forget – On Thursday, June 10, 2010, the FCC and FEMA will co-host a workshop on 21st Century Emergency Alerting:  Leveraging Multiple Technologies to Bring Alerts and Warnings to the Public. The workshop will be held in the Commission Meeting Room of the FCC, 445 12th Street, SW, Washington, DC 20554 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The workshop will bring together a host of experts from Federal and state governments and the communications industry to discuss a variety of issues such as the Next Generation Emergency Alert System, the Commercial Mobile Alert System and how to leverage broadband technologies to ensure that all segments of the public have access to timely and accurate emergency alerts.

For those not able to attend the workshop in person, audio/video coverage of the meeting will be broadcast live with open captioning over the Internet from the FCC's web page at www.fcc.gov/live.  The FCC’s webcast is free to the public and does not require pre-registration. For those watching via webcast, event-related questions can be emailed to livequestions@fcc.gov and we will try to answer as many questions as possible.

Attendees will be treated to a lively and informative discussion about emergency alerting. 

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21st Century Emergency Alerting: Leveraging Multiple Technologies to Bring Alerts and Warnings to the Public

May 26, 2010 - 11:51 AM

When potential threats to life and property are imminent or disasters strike without warning as did the tornadoes in Oklahoma and Kansas that claimed innocent lives recently, we all know how critical it is for all of us to receive timely alerts and warnings, access to the latest information about an emergency situation and guidance from government officials on what we should do to protect ourselves and our families. Early and accurate public alerts are a key element in all of this and can make the difference between life and death.

On June 10, 2010, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will co-host a workshop to address emergency alerting. This workshop – 21st Century Emergency Alerting – will bring together experts from Federal and state government agencies, the broadcast, cable, wireless and wireline industries, the disability community and others to discuss how we as a Nation can leverage multiple technologies to provide timely and accurate emergency alerts to the public. The workshop will also present an opportunity for the public to learn about the progress that has been made to enhance the Emergency Alert System (EAS), develop and deploy the Commercial Mobile Alert System (CMAS) and develop and deploy the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS).

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