As we reported last month, in January the Commission released its Fifth Report and Order (5th R&O) in its long-running proceeding aimed at modernizing the Emergency Alert System. The 5th R&O has now been published in the Federal Register, which establishes the effective date for the new rules. And that effective date is (drum roll, please) . . . April 23, 2012. If you and your engineering staff haven’t focused on whether your current facilities conform to the standards set out in the 5th R&O, the countdown has now started and time’s a-wastin’.  (The deadline for having CAP-compliant equipment remains June 30, 2012.)

Note that several of the amended rules will still not kick in on the April 23 effective date. That’s because they entail some form of “information collection”, which requires that they be run through the Paperwork Reduction Act drill. According to the Federal Register notice, the particular rules whose effectiveness is temporarily PRA-deferred are Sections 11.21(a), 11.33(a)(4), 11.41(b), 11.42, 11.54(b)(13) and 11.55. Section 11.21(a) relates to the contents of State Plans. Section 11.33(a)(4) sets standards for the display and logging of SAME and CAP messages. Section 11.55 spells out EAS operation during state or local emergencies.  With respect to Sections 11.41(b), 11.42 and 11.54(b)(13), there seems to be some confusion. The 5th R&O appears to delete Sections 11.41(b) and 11.42, so it’s not clear why they would be subject to any PRA review. Ditto for Section 11.54(b)(13), although, in addition to deleting that specific subsection, the 5th R&O then recodifies its contents as 11.54(a)(3). Presumably this will all get straightened out eventually.