The approach of hurricane season is a reminder of the vital public safety role that local broadcasters play during emergencies. Broadcasters are the backbone of the Emergency Alert System and often the first source of detailed news about severe weather, missing children, and other dangerous situations. In addition, some small and minority-owned broadcasters are a primary source of information for non-English speakers in their communities. When disaster strikes, the public relies upon their local TV and radio stations to stay informed, find resources, and keep safe. To continue fulfilling this important mission, broadcasters must ensure that their systems are secure and reliable. Here are some best practices to help.
Emergency Alert System
Broadcasters have now participated in four nationwide tests of the Emergency Alert System, which has led to system improvements, but it is also important that you act to safeguard your EAS equipment. Some resources:
- Recommended best practices from the FCC’s Communications Security, Reliability and Interoperability Council (CSRIC) for securing EAS equipment
- FEMA’s guide containing best practices for EAS operations and maintenance
Broadcasters should also establish security risk management policies and practices to safeguard their operations more generally. I encourage you to review the following best practices and implement those that are applicable and most effective for your architecture:
- Cybersecurity resources for small business from the FCC
- CSRIC best practices that focus on the core elements of the NIST Cybersecurity Framework, including this guidance specific to broadcasters
- The Department of Homeland Security’s Critical Infrastructure Cyber Community Voluntary Program (C3), which provides information to assist businesses in securing their networks
- NIST’s cybersecurity resource page for small businesses
- The National Association of Broadcasters’ list of cybersecurity resources for broadcasters.
Other organizations with useful information on this topic include the Society of Broadcast Engineers, World Broadcasting Unions, and perhaps also your state broadcast association. In addition, the FCC will host a webinar on network reliability and security for small and rural communications providers on June 17, which I hope you will join.
The broadcast industry performs a unique and critical role as public safety informers. With that role comes a responsibility to ensure that broadcast systems are reliable. This responsibility must be shared at all levels—that is, not only by the station engineer and IT department but also by the station manager, owner, and other executives. It is a challenge that needs to be embraced by broadcasters of all sizes and also by the manufacturers that supply EAS and other broadcast equipment. Let’s keep at it!