Category Archives: EAS and Amber Alerts

FCC Keeps National EAS (NPT) Form 2 Reporting Open Until November 19

The FCC has notified state broadcast associations that it is keeping the filing window open for Form 2 until November 19.  Form 2 was required to be submitted  by midnight on the day of the test, October 3.  Greg Cooke, Deputy Chief, Policy & Licensing Division, Public Safety & Homeland Security Bureau of the FCC said it was due to reports that many EAS participants had difficulty logging in.

On that same date, November 19, is the deadline for filing Form 3.

For more information, visit the FCC’s EAS Test Reporting System (ETRS) website here.

FEMA’s National EAS/WEA Test ‘Successfully Originated and Disseminated’

As  most broadcasters are aware,  FEMA conducted another National EAS Test and added a second test to cellphones to test Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) on October 3.

With regard to the EAS portion of the test, the MAB received just a few reports regarding re-transmission of the test, and, though still being investigated, it appears those might be related to equipment configuration issues at the station end.   Two callers to the MAB were having issues logging into the the FCC’s ERTS site to report the test results as required.

A poll of 1,894 US adults conducted by YouGov.com regarding the Wireless Emergency Alerts, showed that 72% of the population received the alert, 18% did not, 5% not sure and 5% did not have a cellphone.

FEMA’s statement following the test was as follows:

“The national EAS and WEA test messages were successfully originated and disseminated through FEMA’s IPAWS to the wireless provider gateways and EAS message servers. All wireless provider gateways acknowledged receipt of the test message. 

Additional results from EAS participant station reception and broadcast of the national test message will be collected over the next month and reported later and compared against previous test results.

FEMA is committed to continuously improving the national alert and warning systems and supporting local authorities in getting effective and timely warning to people.

Only WEA compatible cellphones that are switched on and within range of an active cell tower, and whose wireless provider participates in WEA will be capable of receiving the test message.

Additionally, if a user is on a call, or with an active data session open on their phone, they might not have received the message.”

Statewide RMT Cancelled for October 10; Stations Should Run Required Weekly Test

State EAS/SECC Chairman Gary Blievernicht has announced that the Statewide Required Monthly Test (RMT), scheduled for October 10 has been cancelled.  47 CFR 11.61(3)(ii) states, “A national test shall replace the required weekly and monthly tests for all EAS participants … in the week and month in which it occurs.

Stations, however, should run a Required Weekly Test (RWT) the week of October 8.

If you have any questions, contact Dan Kelley at the MAB.

Check IPAWS Certificate for Rescheduled National EAS Test

Stations are reminded that the previous IPAWS digital certificate expires September 24, 2018. To ensure a successful NPT test on the rescheduled date of October 3, you must install the updated CA file. Otherwise, CAP alert messages may not be authenticated after Sept. 24. This applies not only to the NPT, but all CAP messages using that required authentication certificate. Log on to your equipment vendor website to download the most recent certificate update.

As you are aware, due to ongoing response efforts to Hurricane Florence, FEMA rescheduled the National Test of the EAS system to Wednesday, October 3. It will be fed via IPAWS at 2:20 p.m. EDT. All broadcasters and cable systems are required to receive and relay this test. Once the test is completed EAS participants are required to submit Form 2 by 11:59 p.m. EDT on October 3 on the ETRS site:
https://www.fcc.gov/general/eas-test-reporting-system.

Participants should monitor this test to assure that it was received and relayed correctly and there were no problems with the quality of the audio. This information will be required on Form 2.

Nationwide EAS/WEA Test Rescheduled for October 3; New Reporting Dates

On Monday, FEMA, in coordination with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), postponed the nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System (EAS) and Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) until October 3, 2018 due to ongoing response efforts to Hurricane Florence.

The test was originally scheduled for September 20.

On October 3, the WEA (cellphone) portion of the test commences at 2:18 p.m. EDT, and the EAS (broadcast) portion follows at 2:20 p.m. EDT. The test will assess the operational readiness of the infrastructure for distribution of a national message and determine whether improvements are needed.

October 3 was the previously scheduled back-up date for the test.  A backup date is always planned in case of widespread severe weather or other significant events on the primary test date.

For broadcasters, the test will be similar to a required monthly test, but will originate at FEMA facilities in Washington, D.C.

EAS equipment properly setup should pass on the test as required.

FEMA is offering broadcasters resources for this year’s test.  The national test website is at https://www.fema.gov/emergency-alert-test.  FEMA regularly updates the site as new content becomes available.

PSAs:  FEMA is also offering PSAs for broadcasters to run.  The 15, 30 and 60 seconds PSAs (video and audio) are available at FEMA’s media library: https://www.fema.gov/media-library/multimedia/collections/645.  FEMA has uploaded the MPEG versions to NAB’s website.

Broadcaster Reporting Requirements:  EAS Participants shall file the “day of test” information sought by ETRS Form Two at or before 11:59 PM EDT on October 3. EAS Participants shall file the more detailed post-test data sought by ETRS Form Three on or before November 19.

Another reminder for news, programming and production personnel:  Broadcasters and cable providers are not to air the audio attention signal for WEA or the EAS during any news coverage of the test. Any transmission, including broadcast, of the WEA or EAS attention signals or codes, or a simulation of them, under any circumstances other than a genuine alert, authorized test, or approved public service announcement violates the Commission’s rules and undermines the important public safety precautions that WEA and EAS provide. See 47 CFR §§ 10.520(d), 11.45. While the Commission encourages improving public awareness of WEA and the EAS, including the upcoming nationwide test, broadcasters and cable providers are reminded to exercise caution and avoid inadvertently broadcasting the WEA or EAS tones in a news story.

Nationwide EAS/WEA Test Next Thursday (9/20); Don’t Forget the Reporting

A reminder to broadcasters that this coming Thursday, September 20 at 2:20 p.m. Eastern, FEMA and the FCC will be conducting another nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System.  This year’s test will also include testing of WEA, the Wireless Emergency Alert System – so in addition to conducting a broadcast Emergency Alert System text, you’ll likely also receive one on your smartphone.

The test will be similar to a required monthly test, but will originate at FEMA facilities in Washington, D.C.

EAS equipment properly setup should pass on the test as required.

FEMA is offering broadcasters resources for this year’s test.  The national test website is at https://www.fema.gov/emergency-alert-test.  FEMA regularly updates the site as new content becomes available.

PSAs:  FEMA is also offering PSAs for broadcasters to run.  The 15, 30 and 60 seconds PSAs (video and audio) are available at FEMA’s media library: https://www.fema.gov/media-library/multimedia/collections/645.  FEMA has uploaded the MPEG versions to NAB’s website.

Broadcaster Reporting Requirements:  Remember that broadcasters need to complete the filing of ETRS [EAS Test Reporting System] Form Two after the test and before midnight the same day, September 20. Then Form Three is the “detailed post-test data” that must be filed by November 5.

Another reminder for news, programming and production personnel:  Broadcasters and cable providers are not to air the audio attention signal for WEA or the EAS during any news coverage of the test. Any transmission, including broadcast, of the WEA or EAS attention signals or codes, or a simulation of them, under any circumstances other than a genuine alert, authorized test, or approved public service announcement violates the Commission’s rules and undermines the important public safety precautions that WEA and EAS provide. See 47 CFR §§ 10.520(d), 11.45. While the Commission encourages improving public awareness of WEA and the EAS, including the upcoming nationwide test, broadcasters and cable providers are reminded to exercise caution and avoid inadvertently broadcasting the WEA or EAS tones in a news story.

Remember: ETRS Form One Due Monday for All EAS Participants

The FCC and FEMA have established September 20, 2018 as the date for the next nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System (EAS). The nationwide test is designed to study the effectiveness of the EAS and to monitor the performance of EAS participants. The Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) system will be tested immediately prior to the test of the EAS. The FCC and FEMA have designated October 3, 2018 as the back-up date should circumstances prevent testing on September 20.

While the test itself is a month away, all EAS participants must file their Form One with the FCC by August 27, 2018 (this Monday) in preparation for the test. To make this filing, EAS participants must log in to the EAS Test Reporting System using an FCC Username Account. Those filers who do not already have an account can register for one in the FCC’s updated CORES system. Once a username account is set up, it will need to be associated with a licensee’s FCC Registration Number (FRN) before the user can draft or file forms for that licensee’s station(s). Many filers struggled to successfully register in past years, but those who participated in the annual test in 2017 should already be registered.

Form One requests information about a station’s transmitter location, EAS equipment and the stations it is assigned to monitor. For most EAS participants, this information will prefill from last year’s Form One (so be particularly careful reviewing it if your monitoring assignments, equipment or something else has changed since last year). Stations will also see an instruction to file a separate Form One for each encoder, decoder or combination unit. Most broadcasters will likely have a combination unit and therefore only need to file a single Form One. However, there may be situations where multiple filings are needed, for example where a cluster of co-owned radio stations share a studio but have to employ separate encoders and decoders to deal with stations in the group having different monitoring assignments.

As in the past, after the test is completed, participants must report the results of the test by filing Form Two, which requests abbreviated “day of test” data, and then Form Three, which collects more detailed data about the station’s performance.

Filing Deadlines:

  • Form One must be filed on or before August 27, 2018.
  • Form Two (“day of test” data) must be filed by 11:59 PM (EDT) on September 20, 2018.
  • Form Three must be filed on or before November 5, 2018.

Additional Requirements:

To prepare for the test, the FCC recommends that EAS participants review the EAS Operating Handbook and be sure that it is available at normal duty positions or EAS equipment locations, and is otherwise readily accessible to employees responsible for managing EAS actions.

Participants should also use this time to ensure their facilities are in a state of “operational readiness.” Operators should confirm that their EAS equipment has any necessary software and firmware upgrades and that it is capable of receiving the various test codes. If not automatic, operators must also manually set their EAS equipment to the “official time” as established by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Each of these issues has been a significant cause of stations being unable to receive or transmit past tests.

Finally, the person filing for each station should verify that they have the right username, password and licensee FRN in advance of the filing deadline. Experience from the the past two national tests revealed that many stations were caught off guard not by the test itself, but by their inability to access the ETRS to make required filings, often because of confusion surrounding how to log in.

EAS Updates – Nationwide Test, Filing Deadline for Revised Form 1, and New Rules for Use of EAS Tones and Reporting of False Alerts

David Oxenford - Color
David Oxenford

By: David Oxenford, Wilkinson Barker Knauer LLP

The last month has been one where there has been lots of activity dealing with EAS. The FCC announced that it will be conducting a Nationwide EAS Test on September 20, 2018. The FCC has been conducting these Nationwide tests routinely over the last few years (see, for instance, our articles here and here on past tests). This test will include wireless carriers as well as broadcasters. To be prepared for this test, the FCC reminded EAS participants to file their updated ETRS Form One by August 27 (see our article here), and to be prepared to file the post-test Forms Two (filed on the day of the test) and Three (due by November 5) to report on the results of the test at their stations.

At its July meeting (as we briefly noted here), the FCC adopted an Order making some changes to the EAS rules, as well as asking further questions in an included Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. The changes included:

  • New rules allowing “live code testing” – using actual EAS alert tones in practice alerts, but only after providing lots of publicity that the tones are being used only as part of a test.
  • Allowing the use of the EAS attention signal in PSAs and other informational announcements from FEMA and other public interest organizations – but only where simulated tones developed by FEMA are used, as these simulated tones will not trigger other station’s EAS alerts, and only where the tones used are specifically identified as not being a real notice of an emergency.
  • Use of the alert tones like this have been approved in the past by the FCC, but only by use of a waiver process. The FCC actions allow for more testing and more public information without having to request FCC approval for each such use.

The FCC also adopted a requirement for stations to notify the FCC when they broadcast a false EAS alert – requiring that notification be provided within 24 hours of becoming aware of such a broadcast. Right now, only a simple email to the FCC Ops Center will be required, but the Further Notice asks whether a more detailed reporting system should be created, allowing for the reporting of false alerts not just by the EAS participants, but also by the public and other interested organizations.

The order also adopted certain technical validation requirements for EAS systems, requiring new codes in the EAS test messages limiting the period in which those messages are valid, to avoid having outdated emergency messages popping up on stations after the emergency is over. Other technical changes dealing with the authentication of EAS alerts are postponed while the industry works out appropriate protocols for that authentication.

Watch for the effective dates of the requirements to notify the FCC of false EAS tests, and look for updates to your EAS receivers to include the new validation limiter (to become effective within a year). And be sure to file the required ETRS Form One by the August 27 deadline, and be ready for this year’s national test of the EAS system.

David Oxenford is MAB’s Washington Legal Counsel and provides members with answers to their legal questions with the MAB Legal Hotline. Access information here. (Members only access).

There are no additional costs for the call; the advice is free as part of your MAB membership.

Hackers set off Sirens in Genesee County

Genesee County 911 Board Director Mark Emmendorfer has told WEYI-TV (Flint) that the county has been having problems with their emergency warning sirens being set off–and that they are now searching for the culprit or culprits behind the incidents.

The warning sirens in Genesee County have been activated a handful of times over the span of a month and a half, including Tuesday night (7/31), but there was no imminent weather or safety threat at the time.

After the sirens would be turned off, they would somehow be reactivated again. Genesee County 911 contacted West Shore Services, the company that made Genesee County’s warning sirens to investigate.  Engineers and the 911 board are 90% certain that the sirens were deliberately being set off by hackers.  Its reported at the FBI and the FCC is involved in the investigation.

It’s official – September 20 is the next National EAS test.

As previously speculated, Thursday, September 20 at 2:20 p.m. Eastern will be the date and time for the next National EAS Test.  This year’s test will also include testing of WEA, the Wireless Emergency Alert System – so in addition to hearing (or conducting) a broadcast Emergency Alert System text, you’ll likely also receive one on your smartphone.

Remember that broadcasters need to “complete the filing of ETRS [EAS Test Reporting System] Form One, on or before August 27.” Form Two is for the “Day of Test” filing, on September 20. Then Form Three is the “detailed post-test data” that must be filed by November 5.

The Commission’s also inviting “members of the public and interested stakeholder organizations that are in a position to observe test results in their communities” to offer feedback. The FCC does these in coordination with FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency – which says this test “will use the Presidential Alert classification.” See the official FCC release here.  The FCC advises EAS participants to upgrade, if neccessary, EAS equipment software and firmware to the most recent version.  Stations should consult with their equipment manufacturer for any potential updates.