But EAS Participants have a year to advise their SECCs of what, if anything, they’re doing to provide EAS alerts to non-English speaking audiences.

EAS handbook in Spanish-1As we reported last spring, the FCC declined to require that non-English language announcements be provided by Emergency Alert System participants. But the Commission did decide that all State EAS Plans (which are routinely subject to FCC approval) include a description of what actions, if any, EAS participants in the geographic area covered by the Plan have taken – or plan to take – to make EAS content available for non-English speaking audience(s). Also to be included in State Plans: “[a]ny other relevant information that the EAS Participant may wish to provide, including state-specific demographics on languages other than English spoken within the state, and identification of resources used or necessary to originate current or proposed multilingual EAS alert content.”

Of course, the various State Emergency Communications Committees (SECCs) responsible for preparing State Plans will need certain information to comply with the new requirement. So the Commission also required all EAS Participants to provide their local SECC a “description of their efforts and activities to make available EAS alert message content to persons who communicate in languages other than English”.

The deadline for the first step in the process – i.e., Participants’ provision of their respective descriptions of efforts and activities – was set at a year after the effective date of the new requirement. If you’re an EAS Participant, get your calendar out: that one-year period has started.

According to a notice in the Federal Register, the Office of Management and Budget completed its review of the new “information collection” last month and, with the publication of the notice in the Register, the revised rule became effective as of November 3, 2016. That means that, by November 3, 2017, EAS Participants will have to have clued their SECCs into what, if anything, those Participants have done – or might be planning to do – to deliver EAS message contents to non-English speaking audience members. (The SECCs will then have six additional months to integrate the newly-received information into their respective State Plans.)

Thus far there does not appear to be any officially-endorsed template for the required “description”, but it’s possible the Commission may flesh that out sometime in the next year. We’ll keep any eye out for any news on that front. Check back here for updates.

As we noted last April, the FCC is not requiring that EAS Participants actually do anything vis-à-vis foreign language EAS alerts. To the contrary, the new reporting requirement expressly contemplates that the reports may reflect simply that no steps have been taken at all – and that’s apparently OK with the Commission. In fact, that’s what the Commission seems to expect will happen. What the FCC may eventually choose to do with all this information is the real question, but we won’t know that until a couple of years from now. Stay tuned.