FCC Adopts Changes to EAS Rules for Broadcasters

Alerts / October 5, 2022

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has adopted a Report and Order (Order) approving several changes to its rules governing the Emergency Alert System (EAS). Through the new rules, the FCC seeks to make EAS alert messages disseminated to the public by broadcasters and cable operators more informative and easier to understand. In particular, the new EAS requirements seek to ensure that people who are deaf or hard of hearing will have access to televised alerts in a viewable format similar to the audio versions of the same alert messages, and those who are blind or visually impaired will have access – via their radios – to more detailed aural national alerts. This article summarizes the FCC’s changes to the EAS rules impacting broadcasters.


The EAS is a nationwide system used by federal, state and local governmental authorities to disseminate information regarding impending emergencies over broadcast, cable and satellite networks to members of the public. The FCC and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) jointly oversee the EAS. All EAS Participants (i.e., radio and television broadcast stations, cable operators, and satellite service providers) are required to transmit alert messages from the President or FEMA for national emergencies and national EAS tests. EAS Participants may voluntarily transmit other alerts originated by the National Weather Service, as well as those originated by state and local governments.

Under the existing rules, alert originators were permitted to relay EAS messages to EAS Participants for public distribution either through (1) the “legacy” EAS distribution system of broadcast-based audio alerts or (2) FEMA’s Internet-based platform known as the Integrated Public Alert Warning System (IPAWS) using the IP-based Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) format. EAS Participants receive legacy EAS messages by monitoring audio transmissions from other EAS Participants, while CAP-based messages are received by checking, or “polling,” IPAWS for alert messages. CAP-based alerts can provide more information than legacy EAS alerts. Specifically, CAP-formatted alerts may include enhanced text with additional information tailored to the specific emergency, alert texts transmitted in multiple languages, picture and video files, and URLs that members of the public can follow for additional information.

Prioritization of CAP-Formatted Alerts

In this Order, the FCC is requiring all EAS Participants to prioritize the use of CAP-formatted alerts for state and local EAS alert messages. The FCC implemented the new requirement in order to increase the proportion of alerts with enhanced information, as well as to improve the quality of alerts received by disabled individuals.

Under the previous rules, EAS Participants were permitted – but not required – to check IPAWS for CAP-formatted alert message versions when they received legacy EAS-formatted alerts and to use the CAP version rather than the legacy EAS version. Under the new rules, however, EAS Participants receiving a legacy EAS alert message now must check whether a CAP version of the same message is available by polling IPAWS. If a CAP version of the alert message is available, EAS Participants must use the CAP version of the message instead of the legacy version. To ensure enough time for the CAP version of the alert message to appear, EAS Participants must wait at least 10 seconds to transmit an alert in the legacy format – unless they have confirmed by polling the IPAWS feed that no matching CAP version is available.

The FCC has exempted the following alert messages from the CAP prioritization requirement: (1) Emergency Alert Notification (EAN) code alerts, (2) National Periodic Test (NPT) code alerts and (3) Required Weekly Test (RWT) code alerts. Because of the technical characteristics and purposes of these three alert messages, EAS Participants will continue to retransmit these national alert messages in the legacy EAS format.

The FCC, however, declined commenter proposal to exempt radio broadcasters from the CAP prioritization requirement. The FCC rejected commenters’ concerns that the new requirement was technically irrelevant for radio broadcasters, instead finding that the new requirement would result in the optimization of the audio quality of alert messages broadcast to the public by radio stations. Finally, the FCC declined to require all EAS Participants to transmit EAS messages simultaneously in legacy and CAP versions, finding that doing so would create technical issues and public confusion.

Revisions to National EAS Code Alert Texts

In the Order, the FCC also changed the displayed audio and viewable alert text for the three national EAS codes – EAN, NPT and Primary Entry Point (PEP) – as follows:

  • EAN – Text changed from “Emergency Action Notification” to “National Emergency Message”
  • NPT – Text changed from “National Periodic Test” to “National Test of the Emergency Alert System”
  • PEP – Text changed from “Primary Entry Code System” to “United States Government”

The FCC stated that the usage of simpler, more straightforward terms for these national EAS alerts would enable (1) the public to understand the origin and purpose of these alerts more easily and (2) people who are deaf or hard of hearing to receive and comprehend the critical informational elements of the alerts.

Revised National Test Script

Furthermore, for the visual display of legacy nationwide test alerts generated from the PEP and NPT codes using the “All U.S.” geographic code, the FCC changed the standardized text from “The Primary Entry Point system has issued a National Periodic Test . . .” to “This is a nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System, issued by the Federal Emergency Management Agency . . . .” As with the changes in the national EAS code text, the intention is that the new standardized script for nationwide EAS test alerts will be much easier for members of the public to understand. The FCC, however, declined to require radio broadcasters to update their devices to accommodate the new script, as it is only to be used in visual displays (i.e., television alerts) and would not affect audio messages.

Compliance Time Frames

All EAS Participants must comply with the new EAS rules within one year of the effective date of the Order (i.e., 30 days after the Order’s publication in the Federal Register). In response to commenters who urged a longer ramp-up time, the FCC noted that the one-year compliance deadline for most EAS Participants was consistent with previous EAS orders requiring software or equipment upgrades necessary for compliance.

Should you have any questions regarding compliance with the FCC’s new EAS rules, please feel free to contact Dan Kirkpatrick at 202.861.1758 or, Davina Sashkin at 202.861.1759 or, or Keenan Adamchak at 202.861.1772 or

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