The Society of Broadcast Engineers

The Association for Broadcast and Multimedia Technology Professionals

Stations Need to Update EAS Equipment to Accommodate Upcoming Changes

July 31, 2023

In November 2022, the FCC released a Public Notice announcing changes in the distribution and operation for improved EAS messages. As of December 12, 2023, all EAS participants, including radio broadcasters, television broadcasters, and operators of satellite, cable TV, and wireline video services, must start transmitting EAS messages that are received in the IP-based format, when available. With the new rules, the FCC seeks to make EAS alert messages disseminated to the public by broadcasters and cable operators more informative and easier to understand.

What this means is if an alert is received from a legacy EAS source (one of the monitor sources used by the station EAS decoder) the decoder will pause and check to see if the same alert is available in the IP-based Common Alerting Protocol (CAP). If the alert is available in CAP, the EAS device will use that version instead of the one received from the legacy source. If the alert is not available in CAP format the EAS device will relay the legacy source version. CAP-based alerts will produce higher-quality audio messages, improve the availability of multilingual alerts, and ensure that more of the alerts displayed on television screens contain all of the information provided by government agencies that initiate them.

For current EAS equipment to handle this change, manufacturers of EAS equipment will issue software or hardware updates. Most of the manufacturers have released notices that the changes should be available in late August or early September 2023.

In addition, the FCC also changed the displayed audio and viewable alert text for the three national EAS codes – EAN, NPT and Primary Entry Point (PEP) – as follows:

EAN – Text changed from “Emergency Action Notification” to “National Emergency Message”
NPT – Text changed from “National Periodic Test” to “National Test of the Emergency Alert System”
PEP – Text changed from “Primary Entry Code System” to “United States Government”

Furthermore, for the visual display of legacy nationwide test alerts generated from the PEP and NPT codes using the “All U.S.” geographic code, the FCC changed the standardized text from “The Primary Entry Point system has issued a National Periodic Test . . .” to “This is a nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System, issued by the Federal Emergency Management Agency . . . .” As with the changes in the national EAS code text, the intention is that the new standardized script for nationwide EAS test alerts will be much easier for members of the public to understand. These changes will be part of the new software release.

Manufacturers of EAS equipment have urged broadcasters to ensure their equipment is operating with the most current software, as the new software may not load correctly if your unit is not using the most current software. Broadcasters should also review that their EAS units are receiving all the required test, especially the RWT received from IPAWS each Monday at 11:00 a.m. local time. The SBE urges stations not to wait until the last minute to secure and install the updated software.

If you have any questions about these changes, contact your state emergency communications committee or equipment manufacturer.

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