May 20, 2019 - 9:30 am
By Lisa M. Fowlkes | Chief, Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau

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

Cybersecurity Overall

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:  

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!  

 

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