September 29, 2016

Jamie Barnett interviewed in FedScoop on national Emergency Alert System test

2 min

Venable partner Jamie Barnett was interviewed in a September 29, 2016 FedScoop article on a nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System (EAS) earlier this week. The purpose of the test, the first since 2011, was to assess the reliability and effectiveness of the system with an emphasis on FEMA's Public Alert and Warning System.

Noting that EAS has been around for nearly 60 years, Barnett said today's systems "are much more digital…When I was at the FCC there was concern that somebody could hack these systems. There is no digitized system that can't in some way be hacked." Barnett said EAS technology is constantly updated, adding, "It's really hard to defeat this technology. It's designed to work if there’s no power and if there's no communications other than these broadcast signals."

According to Barnett, this week's test provided an opportunity to evaluate measures the FCC adopted after the 2011 test. "We set up something called the EAS Test Reporting System," he said. "All the participants have a certain amount of time in which to report how well their system did and then the FCC aggregates that data and looks at the propagation patterns." Following the 2011 test, "It was determined that we needed a lot more [PEPs], and FEMA, which administers the test program, agreed, so there are now a lot more primary entry point stations," Barnett added. "The coverage and the propagation should be better this time. When all the information comes in through the reporting system, we should be able to see that. It think this test will show great improvement."

Barnett said assessing the results of this week's test will take some time. "There are thousands of stations out there. When we conducted the test in 2011, it took almost a year and a half to come up with [the report]."