Closed Captions and Nationwide EAS Testing

Photo of a vintage TV with an alert from the emercency alert system

The Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau (PSHSB) issued a Public Notice to remind Emergency Alert System (EAS) participants of their obligation to ensure that EAS alerts are accessible to persons with disabilities.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), in coordination with the FCC, will conduct a nationwide Emergency Alert System (EAS) and Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) test on October 4, 2023.

The Public Notice also reminded EAS Participants that they must file ETRS Form Two after the nationwide EAS test no later than October 5, 2023, and they must file ETRS Form Three on or before Nov. 20, 2023. For TV stations, to be visually accessible, EAS texts must be displayed as follows (as it relates to closed captioning):

“At the top of the television screen or where it will not interfere with other visual messages (e.g., closed captioning),” and “without overlapping lines or extending beyond the viewable display (except for video crawls that intentionally scroll on and off the screen)…”

This is in addition to another FCC Public Notice which states:

Individuals who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing. Emergency information provided in the audio portion of programming also must be accessible to persons who are deaf or hard of hearing through closed captioning or other methods of visual presentation, including open captioning, crawls or scrolls that appear on the screen. Visual presentation of emergency information may not block any closed captioning, and closed captioning may not block any emergency information provided by crawls, scrolls, or other visual means.”

As EAS alerts are expected to be more common in the future, this is something that we in the captioning industry will be prepared for and do our part to make it better for viewers.