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LPFM Checklist: Emergency Alert System (EAS)

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For some LPFM stations, this is the most expensive and burdensome item in the audio chain but it is required that LPFM stations be equipped with EAS decoders and that monthly and national tests as well as actual messages are carried.  This is one of the hot items on the FCC’s lists of things to fine stations for (other than public files, which do not apply to LPFM stations).

EAS Handbook

A paper copy of the EAS Handbook must be at all EAS control points at your station.  Please note that the EAS Handbook was updated in 2016.  The 2007 version is no longer valid.

EAS Decoder/Monitor

All LPFM stations must have EAS equipment installed that is capable of decoding, either manually or automatically, the digitally encoded EAS protocol while monitoring at least two assigned EAS stations.  This equipment must be operational during all hours of broadcast operation.  Manually operated equipment must be located so that operators, at their normal duty stations, can be alerted immediately when EAS messages are received.  Only one EAS decoder is required for combined facilities operating from one common location, such as a co-owned and co-located AM and FM studio.  All decoder devices are to be certified by the Commission in accordance with Part 2 Subpart J of the FCC rules.

EAS Tests

LPFM stations are not required to have equipment capable of generating the EAS codes and attention signal however, all LPFM stations are required to retransmit the EAS test script and log receipt of required EAS tests and activations.  Required monthly tests (RMT) of the EAS are to be conducted once a month as coordinated by the Emergency Communications Committee for each state.  The RWT (required weekly test) is optional during the week that a monthly RMT test is conducted.   The RMT conducted in odd numbered months shall occur between 8:30AM local time and local sunset while the RMT conducted in even numbered months shall occur between local sunset and 8:30AM local time.

Since stations are required to monitor two EAS sources, then each station should receive at least one RWT (or emergency activation) from each of the two sources. An EAS activation for a state or local emergency, as defined in the EAS handbook, may be substituted for an RWT.  The RMT may result in only one test being received during that week.

Station Logs

All stations are required to maintain a station log containing the entries that pertain to each test and activation of the EAS that is received or initiated by the station. EAS entries must be made in the station log either manually by responsible broadcast staff or by an automatic device.  Stations may keep EAS data in a separate EAS log which can be maintained at any convenient location; however, such log must be considered as part of the official station log. It is also to contain certain entries which adequately describe the reason why any test was not received and any corrective action taken.

Defective EAS Equipment

Whenever EAS equipment becomes defective, the station may operate without the defective equipment, pending its repair or replacement for a period not in excess of 60 days.  The station must make appropriate entries into the station log showing the date and time the equipment was removed and restored into service. 

If the station cannot restore service to the defective equipment within 60 days due to conditions beyond the control of the licensee, then the station must request an extension of this time from the FCC District Director of the area in which the station is located.  Such request shall include the steps that were taken to repair or replace the defective equipment, the alternate procedures being used while the defective equipment is out of service and an estimation when the defective equipment will be repaired or replaced.

State and Local Events

On February 26, 2002, the Commission released a Report and Order which allows licensees the option to program their EAS equipment to preselect which EAS messages containing state and local event codes they wish to display and log. Stations will continue to display and log all National level alerts, RWTs, RMTs and any state and local events they elect to receive.

Self Check

(Items with an asterisk * may not apply to all stations)

  • Does the station have an EAS handbook available at each EAS control point utilized during any portion of the broadcast day?
  • Does the station use only certified EAS equipment at each location utilized for EAS monitoring?
  • For manually operated EAS decoding equipment, is the decoder installed in a way that enables station staff to be alerted instantaneously upon receipt of an activation during any portion of your broadcast operation?*
  • Is the station’s EAS equipment configured to automatically interrupt programming during periods of unattended operation?*  (Note: Though not required to transmit the codes, LPFM stations shall retransmit the audio portion of any required EAS message received.)
  • Is the EAS decoder/monitor tuned to receive EAS activations from the monitoring priorities named in the State EAS Plan?
  • Did the station receive an EAS activation during the last full calendar week from each of its two EAS monitoring sources?
  • Does the station transmit the EAS test script within 60 minutes of receipt of the Required Monthly Test?
  • Does the station maintain a station log containing an entry of each activation (both sent and received) of the Emergency Alert System?
  • Does the station log contain appropriate entries why required EAS weekly/monthly test transmissions were not received? (If all tests have been received and logged during the last two year period, the appropriate response is “yes”).
  • Does the station log contain appropriate entries documenting the date and time any EAS equipment was removed and/or restored to service? (If there have been no such outages in the last two years, then the appropriate response is “yes”.)

References

Let's finish up the checklist with Antenna Structures.

Information in this document is current as of September 29, 2016.

Information provided by REC Networks is for educational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice.  For legal advice, please obtain the services of a qualified attorney that specializes in FCC law, especially where it comes to LPFM.