Unless it is delayed by a real national emergency, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the FCC are on track to conduct a combined nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System (EAS) and the Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) system on Thursday, Sept. 20, at 2:20 p.m. EDT.

Should you decide to air any news coverage or other discussions of the test, one thing you might not have thought about is the need to avoid the use of the EAS alert tone or anything that sounds too much like it in your reports. The Commission has cautioned stations against unthinkingly including the alert tone in coverage of the test. Generally, the FCC is not amused by any use of the EAS tone outside of an actual alert or test and has come down like a ton of bricks on stations that used it in other contexts. The fines they have imposed aren’t ones you want to mess around with, as we’ve previously reported on the blog. Consider yourselves reminded and warned.

As for more mundane matters related to the test, EAS participants should have already filed their ETRS Form 1 providing information about their EAS equipment. On Sept. 20, the FCC will be expecting stations to monitor their equipment and, for most stations, to file “day-of-test” ETRS Form 2 by the end of the day. Finally, all EAS participants will also be required to file a post-test ETRS Form 3 no later than Nov. 5. Based on the Form 3 currently available in the ETRS system, participants will be required to identify the specific times at which they received and retransmitted the test message, the source(s) from which they received the test (including which source it was received from first), the language in which the message was received and retransmitted, and any complications they experienced.

Based on our experience with last year’s test, we would expect that there will be some congestion in the ETRS system after the test, so you should probably be prepared to spend some time completing your filings. Please contact us if you have any questions about the EAS test, the WEAS test, or the ETRS systems.