Category Archives: EAS and Amber Alerts

NWS Detroit Office Begins Winter Squall Warnings Through EAS

The National Weather Service’s Detroit office has begun issuing Snow Squall Warnings when necessary.

As an EAS event, this will only affect broadcasters who monitor the National Weather Service Radio originating from the Detroit office.  This includes stations in the EAS Southeast, East Central and Lenawee/Washtenaw regions.  NWS considers this to be a life threatening issue.

The EAS code that will be used is SVS. This will come from the NOAA Weather Radio SAME.  The NWS has never used an EAS code SVS up until now.  The text will have “Bulletin – EAS Activation Requested.”

As background, the Snow Squall Warning will be issued based on the following:

  1. Visibility 1/4 mile or less for 15 minutes or more.
  2. Sub-freezing ambient road temperatures (or plunging temperatures that would produce a flash freeze).
  3. Gusty winds.
  4. Forecaster judgement of impact, i.e. clear evidence that a snow squall could lead to dangerous conditions and a possible multi-car accident (pileup) when one of the above criterion isn’t quite met.

Anyone with questions regarding the NWS warnings should contact  Rich Pollman at (248) 625-3309 x726.

FCC Adds Blue Alert to EAS

In an order adopted on December 14, the FCC created a dedicated Blue Alert event code in the Emergency Alert System so that state and local agencies have the option to send these warnings to the public through broadcast, cable, satellite and wireline video providers.

Blue Alerts warn the public when there is actionable information related to a law enforcement officer who is missing, seriously injured or killed in the line of duty or when there is an imminent credible threat to an officer.

Officials may also send Blue Alerts through the Wireless Emergency Alert system to consumers’ wireless phones.

Request Filed for Rehearing of Court Decision on Multilingual EAS Alerts

David Oxenford - Color
David Oxenford

By: David Oxenford, Wilkinson Barker Knauer LLP,
BroadcastLawBlog.com

As we wrote here, a three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia recently reached a 2-1 decision upholding the FCC’s decision to not impose obligations on broadcasters to broadcast multilingual EAS alerts. However, MMTC, the public interest group seeking the imposition of the requirements, has asked for what is called a “rehearing en banc,” asking that all the Judge of the Court review the decision of the original panel. The request for the review relies heavily on the opinion of the dissenting judge from the initial panel, who argued that the FCC has twice promised to look at ways to implement multilingual EAS alerts in some form or another, and twice been unable to gather enough information to be able to come to any decision. As the FCC’s most recent decision was based on a premise that it would again seek to gather such information, the dissenting judge asked why the FCC should be trusted to come to a decision now, when it had not been able to do so before.

The full court has called for responsive briefs, where presumably the difficulties in implementing such alerts will be discussed (see our article here). But broadcasters should be watching this request for review, as it raises serious issues that may be considered by the court.

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.

2018 Regional RMT Schedules Available on the MAB Website

The 2018 Required Monthly Test (RMT) schedules for various regions of the state are now posted to  MichMAB.com as part of the website’s Emergency Alert System section.  While there are still a few outstanding schedules still remaining to be collected, most of the areas are now available here.

One change to note for 2018 is that the first of the two MSP-originated tests is being moved from March to April to coincide with the Severe Weather Awareness Week.  A waiver request is pending with the FCC to move this test from the overnight to 1 p.m. on April 11.

After some difficulties were encountered using the actual Tornado activation code (TOR) for the past two years in conjunction with Awareness Week, the State Emergency Communications Committee (SECC) decided this year to instead use a RMT with special language to highlight alerts that may be transmitted by broadcasters during a severe weather emergency.

More information will be coming to broadcasters in the months to come.

NWS Detroit Office To Begin Winter Squall Warnings

The National Weather Service’s Detroit office will begin issuing Snow Squall Warnings when necessary beginning January 3, 2018.

As an EAS event, this will only affect broadcasters who monitor the National Weather Service Radio originating from the Detroit office.  This includes stations in the EAS Southeast, East Central and Lenawee/Washtenaw regions.  NWS considers this to be a life threatening issue.

The EAS code that will be used is SVS. This will come from the NOAA Weather Radio SAME.  The NWS has never used an EAS code SVS up until now.  The text will have “Bulletin – EAS Activation Requested.”

As background, the Snow Squall Warning will be issued based on the following:

  1. Visibility 1/4 mile or less for 15 minutes or more.
  2. Sub-freezing ambient road temperatures (or plunging temperatures that would produce a flash freeze).
  3. Gusty winds.
  4. Forecaster judgement of impact, i.e. clear evidence that a snow squall could lead to dangerous conditions and possible multi-car accident (pileup) when one of the above criterion isn’t quite met.

Anyone with questions regarding the NWS warnings should contact  Rich Pollman at (248) 625-3309 x726.

Regional EAS Meetings Continue

Standish meeting on October 30.

The Michigan Association of Broadcasters (MAB) and Michigan State Police (MSP) are coordinating regional EAS/Local Emergency Communication Committee (LECC) meetings around the state.  The purpose of the meetings is to discuss ways of improving emergency alerting, including EAS within the state.

Thus far, meetings have been held in Oak Park, Standish, Marquette and Grayling.  Additional meetings (so far) are scheduled:

  • November 6: Taylor
  • November 9:  Kalamazoo
  • November 27: Big Rapids
  • November 30: Howell

All local EAS primary stations serving the appropriate meetings are being invited to participate in these meetings.  Other broadcasters are invited to attend if they desire.

Thus far, the three primary areas the broadcasters would like to see from an improved statewide effort included better audio from the alerting authorities, better communication to radio and TV stations from the local emergency management, plus “First Responder” designations, so broadcast personnel could access their facilities when roads and other passage may be restricted.

One other area directly impacting broadcasters is the desire to be certain that broadcast stations have their EAS equipment set up properly to pass along alerts.  This is primarily for the stations downstream from the local primary stations.

Following these meetings, MSP, in January, will review the information gathered from these meetings to formulate an action plan for improving emergency communications, including EAS.

Court Rejects Appeal of FCC Decision Not to Mandate Multilingual EAS Alerts

The MAB and the SECC are currently surveying all Michigan Broadcast Stations and Cable Systems at the request of the FCC (see below).  If you have not been contacted for your information, please contact Dan Kelley at the MAB:  dkelley@michmab.com and you will be provided a link to your station’s information.

David Oxenford - Color
David Oxenford

By: David Oxenford, Wilkinson Barker Knauer LLP,
BroadcastLawBlog.com

On October 17, The United States Court of Appeals issued an order denying the appeal of an FCC order that rejected a requirement that multilingual EAS alerts be provided in every market. We wrote about the FCC’s proceeding here and here. The Court upheld the FCC’s decision as reasonable, finding that the Commission did not have enough evidence to determine how such alerts should be implemented on a nationwide basis, and noting that the FCC was still reviewing whether to adopt requirements that broadcasters provide alerts in languages other than English in the future. That decision should serve as a reminder that in the FCC order rejecting the call to mandate multilingual EAS alerts in all markets, the Commission did call for broadcasters to supply more information – information that is due in early November.

In 2016, when the FCC rejected the imposition of multilingual EAS alerts, they imposed an obligation on broadcast stations to report to their State Emergency Coordinating Committees (“SECC”) information about what the stations are doing to implement multilingual EAS – including a description of any plans they have to implement such alerts in the future, and whether or not there are significant populations of non-English speaking groups in their communities that would need such alerts. We wrote about that obligation here. The one year deadline would seem to be November 3, one year after the FCC’s order was published in the Federal Register (though an FCC small-business compliance guide summarizing the obligations, released in August, available here, states on the top of page 3 that the deadline is November 6). In any event, given the Court’s decision relying on the FCC gathering information about the provision of emergency alerts to non-English speaking communities, it is important that stations provide their SECCs by early November. The FCC’s Small Business Compliance Guide is a good summary of what is required.

The Court decision was a 2-1 decision, with a dissenting judge finding that the FCC already had asked for information about multilingual EAS alerts several times, and did not get it. The dissenting judge thought that the Court should have found that the FCC was unreasonable in once again saying that they were looking for more information with no guarantee that they would receive that information. This dissent highlights the importance that seems to be placed on the upcoming submission of this information to state EAS committees.

Broadcasters need to find out who heads their SECC, and get them the information about multilingual EAS alerts in the next few weeks, so that the SECCs can review their state EAS plans and, where necessary, make changes by next May based on the information in the November reporting, so that broadcasters can better serve non-English speaking populations with emergency alerts.

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.

Regional EAS LECC Meetings Underway

The Michigan Association of Broadcasters and Michigan State Police are coordinating regional EAS/Local Emergency Communication Committee (LECC) meetings around the state.  The purpose of the meetings is to discuss ways of improving emergency alerting, including EAS within the state.

The first regional meeting was held November 16 in Oak Park with local Emergency Managers from Southeast Michigan and representatives from the area LP-1 (WJR-AM) and LP-2 (WWJ-AM) stations, Dan Kelley from the MAB, as well as personnel from MSP Emergency Management and Homeland Security division.

After an open discussion of issues regarding emergency alerting, those attending broke into groups to focus on the individual needs of the each stakeholder.  The three areas the broadcasters would like to see from an improved statewide effort included better audio from the alerting authorities, better communication to radio and TV stations from the local emergency management, plus “First Responder” designations, so broadcast personnel could access their facilities when roads and other passage may be restricted.

The meetings will continue region-by-region.  Local Primary Stations should be receiving an invitation to a coming meetings in their area.

Senate Passes ‘Sandy Act’ Making Radio, TV ‘First Responders’

INSIDERADIO reports that on its first day back to work after Hurricane Irma struck Florida, the Senate quickly approved the bill (S. 102) designating radio and TV as “first responders” during natural disasters. The bill saw several years of holdups, but ultimately, back-to-back hurricanes seemed to have convinced Congress to pass the Securing Access to Networks in Disasters Act—otherwise known as the SANDy Act.

The House earlier approved the bill, only to see it become hung up in the Senate once again. But that changed with a quick vote on Monday when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) asked for unanimous consent to the legislation without any floor debate. The bill now heads to the White House where it only needs President Trump’s signature to become law.

While many local officials turn to broadcasters during emergencies, there have been situations where things have become more contentious and, by passing a federal law, supporters say the SANDy bill would simply put into place guarantees already adopted in several states.

The bill’s passage drew positive reviews at the Federal Communications Commission. “We know that weather-related emergencies and other disasters can occur anywhere at any time, and this legislation comes not a moment too soon,” commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said in a statement, adding, “Among other things, it promises to help speed restoration of essential communications in times of disaster.”

The legislation has the backing of the National Association of Broadcasters, which says recognizing radio and TV’s first-informer role will keep local radio and TV stations on-air during times of emergencies. According to a recent NAB-commissioned survey, 57% of Americans turn to local radio and TV stations for updates during an emergency. That’s four-times more than text messaging, email or cable news channels. The online survey, conducted in March by Morning Consult, included a sample of 2,251 adults aged 18 and older.