The Federal Emergency Management Agency (“FEMA”) has announced that it will not conduct a national test of the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (“IPAWS”) via the broadcast Emergency Alert System (“EAS”) and Wireless Emergency Alert (“WEA”) system this year. As we have written about in the past, EAS tests are sometimes postponed due to natural disasters and other extenuating circumstances, but this will be the first time in nearly a decade that they are canceled.
In a statement released late last week, FEMA indicated cancellation of the 2020 nationwide test is intended to help lower the workload for broadcast staff – already overburdened adjusting to COVID-19 – in particular by removing the need to file EAS reports. FEMA is only required to test the IPAWS system every three years, and the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) found that last year’s test was largely effective, having reached 82.5% of participants. Broadcast weekly and monthly tests are not effected and must continue to be conducted.