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FCC Issues NPRM To Propose New EAS Event Codes

July 14, 2015

In a notice of proposed rulemaking adopted July 8, 2015, the Federal Communications Commission proposes to revise the FCC Emergency Alert System (EAS) rules, as set forth in a letter and subsequent comments filed by the National Weather Service (NWS) of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Specifically, the NWS requests that the Commission add three new EAS event codes, covering extreme wind and storm surges, as well as revise the territorial boundaries of the geographic location codes for two offshore marine areas listed in the EAS rules as location codes 75 and 77. The FCC agreed with the NWS that targeted, specific warnings “will help the public and emergency officials better respond to local threat(s).”
The codes specifically requested by the NWS:

Extreme Wind Warning (EWW)
To provide advance notice of the onset of extreme sustained surface winds (greater than or equal to 115 miles per hour) associated with a major land-falling hurricane (category 3 or higher). The NWS explains that using the Tornado Warning (TOR) event code caused confusion when used to warn of Hurricane Charley’s high winds in 2004. The NWS started using the EWW code during the 2007 hurricane season.

Storm Surge Watch (SSA) and Storm Surge Warning (SSW)
The NWS says the Storm Surge Watch/Warning will be issued when there is a significant risk of life-threatening inundation from rising water moving inland from the ocean. In the event of a storm surge, a watch (SSA) would be issued 48 hours in advance of the event taking place and a warning (SSW) would be issued 36 hours in advance of the event, and will help to mitigate damage from storm surge, the leading cause of death in tropical cyclones. The NWS currently does not issue explicit storm surge warnings, although the National Hurricane Center (NHC) has advocated for a storm surge watch and storm surge warning for a number of years. The NWS explains that the current hurricane watch/warning does not provide clear or sufficient information to allow citizens to determine if they are threatened by wind or storm surge or both.

The FCC seeks comments on adding these codes.

The NWS also requests that the Commission revise the areas defined in the geographic location codes identified in section 11.31(f) of the EAS rules as location codes 75 and 77, which cover offshore marine areas. These location codes, and their defined areas, like all the offshore (marine areas) location codes contained in the EAS Protocol, were originally adopted in 2002. Currently, the marine area defined for location code 75 covers “Western North Atlantic Ocean, and along U.S. East Coast, south of Currituck Beach Light, N.C., following the coastline into Gulf of Mexico to Bonita Beach, FL, including the Caribbean,” while location code 77 covers “Gulf of Mexico, and along the U.S. Gulf Coast from the Mexican border to Bonita Beach, FL.” The NWS indicates that it has changed the end point it uses for generating weather alerts for both of these areas from Bonita Beach, FL, to Ocean Reef, FL, and, accordingly, requests that the area covered by location code 75 be changed to “Western North Atlantic Ocean, and along U.S. East Coast, south of Currituck Beach Light, NC, following the coastline to Ocean Reef, FL, including the Caribbean,” and that the area covered by location code 77 be changed to “Gulf of Mexico, and along the U.S. Gulf Coast from the Mexican border to Ocean Reef, FL.”

The FCC also proposes revising footnote 1 of section 11.31 to delete the reference to a past deadline and to clarify that the numbers assigned to the offshore marine areas listed in the table of geographic areas in section 11.31(f), while consistent with the format of the state and territory location codes derived from the ANSI standard, are not a product of that standard, but rather were assigned by the NWS.

PS Docket No. 15-94

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