03.22.2012 – The Wireless RERC filed ex parte comments with the FCC regarding the national test of the Emergency Alert System (EAS) conducted on November 9, 2011. The comments were submitted in the form of the Wireless RERC’s Report on the National EAS Test On-line Survey and Focus Group Findings. From November 2, 2011 through November 18, 2011, the Wireless RERC conducted two surveys, one prior to the November 9th national EAS test and the other following the test. Four hundred and three (403) people responded to the pre and post-EAS test surveys. The surveys evaluated responses from people who are deaf, hard of hearing, blind or have low vision in order to understand the effectiveness of EAS for people with sensory disabilities. In addition, on November 9th during the actual tests, 22 people with sensory disabilities participated in focus groups held at Public Broadcasting Atlanta (PBA). The ex parte comments reported the data, analyses and findings from the surveys and focus groups. The nationwide test of EAS revealed technical, policy and practice related challenges. The focus groups and surveys showed a number of access barriers including inconsistent use of audio, a lack of a visual alert mechanism and text crawl that was difficult to read due to size and speed. Respondents and participants with hearing loss found that the national EAS test message was not fully accessible, reporting problems with the attention signal and audio quality. Regarding policy and practice, the voluntary nature of the system resulted in the inconsistent implementation of the rules and regulations regarding state and local participation in EAS. Some recommendations for improving the accessibility of EAS delivered over television and radio include: (1) Always provide audio and visual formats of alert content for all types of alerts (weather, Amber, presidential, free text). (2) Standardize the appearance of EAS messages. (3) Incorporate pre-recorded or rapidly assembled ASL video translation of message content. And (4) include a visual alert mechanism such as a screen flash.