Category Archives: EAS and Amber Alerts

FCC Adopts New EAS Testing Procedures, False Alert Reporting, PSA Rules

On Thursday (July 12), the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) took the latest in a series of actions designed, it says, to bolster the reliability of the nation’s emergency alerting systems and support greater community preparedness.

In a Report and Order adopted, the commission set forth procedures for authorized state and local officials to conduct “live code” tests of the Emergency Alert System, which use the same alert codes and processes as would be used in actual emergencies. These tests can increase the proficiency of local alerting officials while educating the public about how to respond to actual alerts.

The procedures adopted by the commission require appropriate coordination, planning, and disclaimers to accompany any such test.

To further enhance public awareness, today’s action will also permit authorized public service announcements (PSAs) about the Emergency Alert System to include the system’s Attention Signal (the attention-grabbing two-tone audio signal that precedes the alert message) and simulated Header Code tones (the three audible tones that precede the Attention Signal) so long as an appropriate disclaimer is included in the PSA.

The action also requires Emergency Alert System equipment to be configured to help prevent false alerts and requires an Emergency Alert System participant, such as a broadcaster or cable system, to inform the FCC if it discovers that it has transmitted a false alert.

In addition, in an accompanying Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, the commission seeks comment on other specific measures to help stakeholders prevent and correct false alerts.

The commission also seeks comment on the performance of Wireless Emergency Alerts, including how such performance should be measured and how the FCC should address inconsistent delivery of these messages.

FEMA Announces Plans for Next National EAS Test; to include WEAs

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has proposed September 20, 2018  at 2:18 p.m.  Eastern as the date and time for the next nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System. After conducting a first-ever national EAS test in 2011, the 2018 test would be a fourth dry run of an infrastructure designed to allow a President to speak to the country in case of a national emergency.

New this year, FEMA is proposing a simultaneous first-ever national test of the Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA). It would involve sending an 87-character test message to be displayed on mobile handsets. “THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed,” the text message would read.

Since wireless emergency alert capabilities launched in 2012, there have been numerous tests of the system targeting specific geographical locations. But this would be the first time a WEA alert is distributed across the entire country and to overseas U.S. territories. A backup date for both tests would be Oct. 3.

Alfred Kenyon, chief of the customer support branch in FEMA’s IPAWS Program Office, wrote in a letter to the Federal Communications Commission stating, “This test is necessary because it will determine if carrier WEA configuration, systems and networks can and will process a Presidential WEA delivering the message via all WEA-enabled cell sites with minimal latency. Public safety officials need to be sure that in times of an emergency or disaster, they have methods and systems that will deliver urgent alerts and warnings to the public when needed.”

Kenyon continued, “Periodic testing of public alert and warning systems is a way to assess the operational readiness of the infrastructure for distribution of a national message and determine what technological improvements need to be made.”

Plans call for a less formal approach to assessing how the wireless test performs. While broadcasters are required to submit a pair of reports to the FCC detailing whether they received and then relayed an EAS message, Kenyon said FEMA and Department of Homeland Security employees throughout the country will be asked to fill out a brief questionnaire to provide a “snapshot” of the wireless alert’s delivery.

Kenyon said if the FCC goes along with the plan, FEMA will develop multimedia public service announcements to begin educating the public about the new broadcast-wireless combination test set to take place in September.

During the 2017 national EAS test, 97.3% of radio stations successfully received the test message and 94% successfully retransmitted the alert, according to FEMA and the FCC. That was a higher success rate than either television or cable. The report pointed to “fewer complications” related to EAS equipment failures as one reason. The biggest issue by far was audio quality, with problems including background noise, static, distortion, echoing, low volume and slow audio playback cited by many stations. Other glitches were more run of the mill, such as stations that failed to update their EAS equipment software or those that incorrectly configured EAS hardware.

The FEMA/FCC report is available here.

FCC Requires Updating By Broadcasters of EAS Test Reporting System (ETRS) Form One By August 27

David Oxenford - Color
David Oxenford

By: David Oxenford, Wilkinson Barker Knauer LLP

The FCC recently released a Public Notice reminding all EAS participants that they need to file ETRS Form One by August 27, 2018. This form needs to be filed by all radio and TV stations, including LPFM and LPTV stations (unless those LPTV stations simply act as a translator for another station). While the FCC has not announced another nationwide EAS test for this year, the FCC still requires that the form be updated on a yearly basis – with a separate Form One being filed for each encoder, decoder, or combined unit used by any station or cluster.

The Public Notice provides information about where to file the form, and also links to this help page on the FCC website that provides information about completing the form. These Frequently Asked Questions are also helpful. They note the information that needs to be submitted in the ETRS form, including the geographic coordinates of the station (with latitude and longitude in NAD83), and various information about the station’s “designation”, monitoring assignments and “geographic zone” – all information that should be set out in the state EAS plan for the state in which the station is located. As it may take some time to locate all of the required information to make sure that any station’s Form One is current and accurate, stations should not delay in beginning to work on this form.

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.

Urgent: Sage ENDEC Update Available

Sage Alerting Systems has announced the availability of an important firmware update for its Sage 3644 (blue) EAS box.

Users with the 3644 must install this update to permit the ENDEC to continue to receive EAS CAP alerts from FEMA.   A FEMA signing certificate will expire at 11:45 a.m. on June 24, 2018; if this update is not installed, you will not receive CAP messages from the IPAWS system after that date.

This release also updates the SSL certificate roots that your ENDEC must have in order to download alert audio files from state or county alert originators.

For more information, visit http://sagealertingsystems.com/support-firmware-new.htm.

Updates from other manufacturers: 

Monroe EAS Device users who are being contacted directly.

User notices are being sent out, directing to the following links:
http://www.digitalalertsystems.com/resources_fsb.html and http://monroe-electronics.com/EAS_pages/eas_fsb.html.

Trilithic updates can be found here:

https://eas.trilithic.com/Documents/Firmware/index.html

Gorman-Redlich updates can be found here:

http://www.gorman-redlich.com/downloads/

SECC Meets in Lansing

On May 23, members of the State Emergency Communications Committee met in Lansing to discuss EAS changes and issues in Michigan.

SECC members were updated on the progress of the Michigan State Police Emergency Alert System LPI project which began late last year.  The project is focusing on upgrading the state’s hardware for emergency reporting, along with policies and training.  The good news for broadcasters is that the changes will improve the speed relaying EAS messages to air, as well as incorporating mass notification systems for incidents that may not require a full EAS alert.

In addition, both broadcasters and the public will have access to an online portal that will allow for the dissemination of follow-up information once an alert has been issued.  Presently there is no formal avenue for such information.

It is hoped that the goal for a vendor to provide the neccessary hardware will be selected by the end of 2018 with the entire project shooting for a completion date of December 31, 2019.

Gary Blievernicht, state SECC Chairman and MAB’s Dan Kelley have both been involved in representing broadcasters with the project.

Other items discussed at the May 23 meeting included an update on the 800mHz radios that were provided by broadcasters.  MSP is hiring a project manager to assist broadcasters with radio installation and updating .  Also on the agenda was discussion of local primary reception problems in the Cadillac and Port Huron areas, plus discussion of the local primary station situation in a region, where both the LP-1 and LP-2 are at a shared location, rather than separate locations as desired.

The FCC Publishes Compliance Guide for BLUE Alerts

The FCC published a Small Entity Compliance Guide for BLUE alerts available here. “The use of the BLU event code is voluntary and EAS and EAS Participants may update their software to add the BLU event code on a voluntary basis. Such software updates may be bundled with other routine software updates to minimize burden and expense,” according to the guide.

Statewide Tornado Drill Successful

The MAB would like to thank broadcasters for participating in this year’s statewide tornado drill on April 11.  This was performed as part of Michigan’s Severe Weather Awareness Week and coordinated by the Michigan State Police, Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division, the MAB, the National Weather Service and local emergency managers throughout the state.

While participation by government agencies, municipalities, schools and workplaces is still being gathered, broadcaster participation was nearly 100%, simply because the on-air “drill” was a RMT (Required Monthly Test), a routine event for most broadcasters.  Additional language was put in the test to acknowledge Severe Weather Awareness Week.

The only problems reported thus far to the MAB were some issues at individual stations, either with audio level issues or configuration issues of local EAS boxes.  The attention with this test was an excellent opportunity for stations to check their equipment for proper operation.

If there were problems in your area that you’d like the MAB to know about, please email Dan Kelley: dkelley@michmab.com.

FEMA Releases 2017 IPAWS/EAS National Test Report

FEMA has released the results of the September 27, 2017 National EAS Test.  The agency reports that overall results were similar to 2016 with improvements in most areas.

The largest issues reported to FEMA via ETRS were:

1) 27.1% of errors reported were due to General EAS device configuration errors.  268 EAS participants nationwide reported this.

2) 21.2% of errors were due to EAS equipment failure or EAS equipment out for repair.  210 EAS partipants reported this.

3) 7.5% of errors were due to a timing issue within EAS device, typically due to NNTP server configuration.  74 EAS participants reported this.

The complete list of errors are in the report.

The agency noted that while the apparent overall quality of the data collected in ETRS has improved FEMA continues to have concerns regarding the quality of EAS Participant responses recorded in ETRS. For example seven EAS Participants indicated that they did not receive the NPT message, but did successfully relay the message they claimed not to receive.

See the complete report here.

Statewide Tornado Drill Next Week

Gov. Rick Snyder has declared the week of April 8 through 14 Michigan’s Severe Weather Awareness Week.  Broadcasters and Emergency Management partners statewide are encouraging Michiganders to conduct a statewide tornado drill at 1 p.m. ET on Wednesday, April 11.

Broadcaster participation will take place with an EAS Required Monthly Test at 1 p.m. on April 11.  As with all RMTs, the test will remind the public that in the event of a tornado, severe weather or other emergency, official information would have followed the EAS tones.

Broadcasters are also encouraged to promote the test and their role in relaying important information to the public when severe weather strikes.  This can be done on-air and through websites and social media.

On a voluntary basis, Emergency Managers may conduct a test of warning sirens and other drills.  Broadcasters are encouraged to contact their local emergency management personnel to get specific details on activities happening in their communities.

Here are links to important information for broadcasters for download:

Tornado Safety Packet
Radio PSA #1 (Outdoor Warning)
Radio PSA #2 (Tornado Drill)

The Michigan Committee for Severe Weather Awareness has also published their annual Severe Weather Awareness Toolkit. The packet can be downloaded at https://www.mcswa.com.

Thank you for your commitment to being preparedness leaders in the state and in your communities.

The Michigan State Police Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division and the Statewide Tornado Drill Committee.

Severe Weather Awareness Week Information (Including EAS RMT ‘Tornado Alert’)

Gov. Rick Snyder has declared the week of April 8 through 14 Michigan’s Severe Weather Awareness Week.  Broadcasters and Emergency Management partners statewide are encouraging Michiganders to conduct a statewide tornado drill at 1 p.m. ET on Wednesday, April 11.

Broadcaster participation will take place with an EAS Required Monthly Test at the 1 p.m. time on April 11.  As with all RMTs, the test will remind the public that in the event of a tornado, severe weather or other emergency, official information would have followed the EAS tones.

Broadcasters are also encouraged to promote the test and their role in relaying important information to the public when severe weather strikes.  This can be done on-air and through websites and social media.

On a voluntary basis, Emergency Managers may conduct a test of warning sirens and other drills.  Broadcasters are encouraged to contact their local emergency management personnel to get specific details on activities happening in their communities.

Here are links to important information for broadcasters for download:

Tornado Safety Packet
Radio PSA #1 (Outdoor Warning)
Radio PSA #2 (Tornado Drill)

The Michigan Committee for Severe Weather Awareness has also published their annual Severe Weather Awareness Toolkit. The packet can be downloaded at https://www.mcswa.com.

Thank you for your commitment to being preparedness leaders in the state and in your communities.

The Michigan State Police Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division and the Statewide Tornado Drill Committee.