FCC Opens Inquiry on Unauthorized EAS Alert

The FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau today opened an inquiry into the Oct. 24 transmission of an unauthorized Emergency Alert System (EAS) message in several states.

“The incident occurred when a syndicated radio broadcast inappropriately transmitted a recording of an EAS alert with an Emergency Action Notification (EAN) event code,” the bureau said in a public notice. “This incident did not involve the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS), but affected only the commercial service provider side of the EAS. This Public Notice seeks comment on how unauthorized EAS alerts, including this EAN incident, affect EAS Participants, public safety and other government and local agencies, as well as the public. We also request comment on ways EAS Participants and EAS equipment can improve message authentication going forward.”

The bureau asked EAS participants to check with their equipment makers to see if the alert that was transmitted Oct. 24 has been queued to transmit on a future date by their systems.  In collaboration with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Homeland Security, where FEMA is housed, the bureau said it “is commencing this inquiry into the technical, operational and policy implications of this incident.”  The bureau is seeking information on issues such as the extent to which EAS parties have been impacted by unauthorized alerts and how they authenticate alert messages. —Paul Kirby, paul.kirby@wolterskluwer.com