Category Archives: EAS and Amber Alerts

SiriusXM Seeks EAS Waiver

On June 5, SiriusXM Radio filed a petition with the FCC asking for a temporary waiver with regard to how the company complies with Emergency Alert System requirements on some of its programming channels.

In a story appearing in Inside Radio, the satellite radio operator’s petition says listeners would still be able to hear emergency alerts. The change would only impact whether the tones sent on several of its satellite channels would trigger other broadcasters’ EAS equipment.  The issue surrounds several channels on the XM service that use compression technology in order to squeeze as much content into the available spectrum as possible. However, this compression may prevent EAS codes and signals from activating receivers monitoring the satellite service.

SiriusXM seeks a 30-month waiver to any obligation that it must transmit EAS codes on those compressed channels so that it may develop, test and implement technical solutions that can address the issue.

The company notes that the service is part of the national EAS infrastructure as a Primary Entry Point (PEP) station, working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), providing an alternate transmission means for transporting FEMA-originated emergency alert messages to other PEP stations and state emergency operations centers.  As a result, the company says its participation as a PEP station means its listeners will continue to receive information regarding any national EAS activation on all channels, including those with the above-mentioned compression technology.

The company also says that while its committment to emergency alerting and the EAS system remains strong, the FCC’s EAS testing rules are unnecessarily broad and require revision as they apply to satellite radio.  “The requirement to carry weekly and monthly EAS tests on all SiriusXM channels has imposed an excessive, disproportionate and unnecessary burden on SiriusXM and its subscribers. Unlike other multichannel services such as cable television, the satellite radio service rarely has natural breaks in programming for inserting a test and never has uniform breaks that apply to all of our approximately 150 channels.  All of our music channels are also broadcast without commercials, which further minimizes the opportunities for the natural programming breaks that most broadcasters use to transmit EAS tests.”

“The result is that many of the weekly and monthly EAS tests interrupt what our customers are listening to, and do so in a way that can be intrusive.”

Read the complete filing here.

Pai Proposes To Add Blue Alerts To EAS

Chairman Ajit Pai

On May 19, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced a proposal to add an alert option to the nation’s Emergency Alert System (EAS) to help protect our nation’s law enforcement officers.

Called a “Blue Alert,” the option would be used by authorities in states across the country to notify the public through television and radio of threats to law enforcement and to help apprehend dangerous suspects. The Chairman unveiled the proposal at an event hosted by the Department of Justice announcing the nationwide rollout of the National Blue Alert Network.

“As we have learned from the very successful AMBER Alert initiative for recovering missing children, an informed public can play a vital role in assisting law enforcement,” Chairman Pai said. “By expanding the Emergency Alert System to better support Blue Alerts, we could build on that success – and help protect those in law enforcement who risk their lives each day to protect us.”

Blue Alerts can be used to 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. As a result, a Blue Alert could quickly warn you if a violent suspect could be in your community, along with providing instructions on what to do if you spot the suspect and how to stay safe.

Chairman Pai’s proposal would amend the FCC’s EAS rules by creating a dedicated Blue Alert event code so that state and local authorities have the option to send these warnings to the public through broadcast, cable, satellite, and wireline video providers.

Suzanne Goucher, EAS representative for the National Association of State Broadcast Associations (NASBA) said “the new code would be voluntary, so if states or stations didn’t want to use the new code for Blue Alerts, they could still use LEW, Law Enforcement Warning, for other incidents/situations.”

House Holds Hearing on Modernizing EAS

On May 20, Representative Greg Walden, (R-OR), Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee (and a former broadcaster), led a hearing on modernizing America’s emergency alert system.

“As we move forward, we want to make sure that our first responder community, and the citizens they serve and protect, have access to the latest technologies. And, we want to make sure that it is an evolving force, not something that is simply locked in place,” said Walden.

Broadcasters made their case for the importance of advanced emergency alerts via the new next gen ATSC 3.0 standard and the necessity for the FCC to approve NAB’s request, along with noncommercial broadcasters and tech companies, to roll out the new standard on a voluntary basis.

Sam Matheny, Chief Technology Officer for the National Association of Broadcasters told lawmakers: “All NAB members, the thousands of free, local radio and television broadcasters in your hometowns, take seriously their role as the most trusted source of news and emergency updates. Whether it’s preparing listeners and viewers for the coming storm, directing them to needed supplies and shelter during the disaster, or helping towns and cities rebuild in the aftermath, local stations are part of the communities they serve. And, local radio and TV stations are sometimes the only available communication mediums in an emergency when cell phones and wireless networks fail. In fact, a new poll was released by Morning Consult, reaffirming that broadcasters are the number one medium that the American People turn to in times of emergency, by a factor of nearly four to one.”

“This unique combination of trust and reliability is why, in addition to our ongoing, comprehensive news coverage of emergencies, broadcasters form the backbone of the Emergency Alert System (EAS). EAS connects over-the-air broadcast radio, television and cable systems to communicate critical safety information to the public during sudden, unpredictable or unforeseen events. These capabilities can be enhanced by a station’s voluntary upgrade to Next Gen TV, which will enable significant life-saving advances in emergency communications. One need look no further than the recent and tragic fire in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, or the destruction caused by Hurricane Sandy to appreciate the vital role of a reliable communications infrastructure during a time of crisis. ”

 

A Day in May

Tim Moore

Editor’s Note: The views and opinions of this article do not necessarily reflect those of the MAB. Contact the MAB for information on the MAB’s official editorial policy.

By:  Tim Moore,
Managing Partner,
Audience Development Group

This month marks the sixth anniversary of the largest natural disaster visited on the American landscape in the new Century. At 5:34 p.m. on Sunday, May 22, 2011, an EF5 tornado’s 200 mile per hour winds cut a mile-wide swath through Joplin (Missouri’s fourth largest metro) killing 158 and injuring more than a thousand.

In its aftermath only Zimmer Radio’s in-house radar and engineering foresight linked the market with the outside world. Three TV stations and other radio companies were decommissioned by the tornado. The following is a verbatim e-mail between two members of Zimmer’s highly respected engineering team 48 hours after the storm:

From: David Obergoenner to Morgan Grammar Date: 24 May 2011 Subject: Joplin 11:39 PM

Thanks, Morgan. As of this afternoon we still had two staff members missing. Many of our people including the air staff lost their homes, cars, everything. But there they were, all day today, on the air, helping other hurting folks via radio. We have such a great staff!!! Much of our broadcast day was taking calls from people trying to find friends and family…and helping folks find food and shelter. Some of the calls tore my heart out. So many good people in that town…

We’ve brought in a couple of RV’s for staff members to use who don’t have homes anymore…or theirs’ are too badly damaged to safely return to. All of our stations were on simulcast wall to wall; with weather coverage from an hour before the storm hit Joplin. We knew it was going to be a bad one. 6 of our 7 signals stayed on the air without missing a beat through the storm. Zimmer stations are about the only thing left on radio or TV.

Our 5 kw AM took a direct lightening hit as the storm blew through and was off the air until about 4am when Mel got it fixed. The BE AM-6a was still fine. The generators at all the sites saved our butts again. The tornado just missed our 1,000 foot Joplin Super Tower (with 3 of our FM’s on it) and just missed our studio complex by a couple of blocks. The winds at our studios were so strong it tore out several trees near our parking lot. Several of our staff’s cars were parked there and it really tore them up too.

I have no idea how our STL tower survived that…I guess that ERI tower I insisted on is pretty tough. We still haven’t been able to get to our old location which also has a 400 foot tower. Mel says he saw the tower but not sure if the building is still standing. Our TV tenant has been off the air since the storm hit, as has most of the TV here. That’s about where we are this evening. Joplin will not be back to normal for a VERY long time.

Zimmer had previously installed actual radar when they launched their News -Talk KZRG. Operations Manager Chad Elliot had fortuitously worked out a text warning system with some Kansas Sheriff’s departments to the west. Elliot came immediately to his facility on learning a massive multiple-vortex storm was making up over Kansas and headed for Joplin. He alerted local emergency departments and a large local high school with commencement ceremonies that afternoon! The damage was beyond description, including the 10-story St. Johns Medical Complex, actually deformed over a foot on its foundation; only part of the $2.8 billion in damages.

In the weeks that followed, Zimmer radio was appropriately hailed as a savior for so many who, thanks to the advanced warning, were able to take shelter. The company was visited by countless agencies including the NAB and many broadcasters who simply wanted to know “how they accomplished it.”

The answer was of course foresight and an investment in “overbuilt” facilities including their in-house radar. As for Zimmer’s human assets, it’s fair to say they were priceless.

 

 

FEMA Releases Results of Nationwide EAS Test; Plans Another

Last week, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) released a report of the September 28, 2016 Nationwide EAS Test.

The full report can be downloaded here.

The agency also released a list of key successes of the September 28, 2016 EAS Test:

    • A majority of stations reported a clean, clear and easily understandable audio message.
    • Some stations broadcasting in Spanish were able to select and play the Spanish language version of the test message.
    • Use of the National Periodic Test event code allowed the test to occur without alarming the public.
    • The test elevated public awareness, providing important information on EAS within the landscape of public alert and warning.

Reports indicate that approximately 88 percent of EAS participants across the country were able to receive and relay the test message.

The agency has also announced that it is currently planning and coordinating for another test.  No date has been announced yet.  For more information, visit FEMA’s Emergency Alert System resource page here.

Details & Materials Available for Statewide Tornado Drill/EAS Test

Graphic 005In cooperation with the Michigan State Police, Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division, and with the endorsement of the MAB Board of Directors, the National Weather Service will conduct a test with the Tornado Warning EAS Code at 1:00pm Eastern Time on Wednesday, April 19, 2017 as part of Michigan’s Severe Weather Awareness Week. The MAB received a waiver from the FCC to use the actual EAS Tornado Warning Code (“TOR”) for this statewide test.

This test will be in conjunction with a statewide tornado drill. In addition to the EAS activation, your area may experience a test of tornado sirens which may alarm some members of the public. Your assistance in informing the public before the test is requested.

The MAB Board of Directors encourages all broadcasters and cable operators to participate. Other states, including Wisconsin, Minnesota and Illinois, have conducted similar successful tests in the past few years. Though encouraged, participation in this test by broadcast stations and cable systems is voluntary. This test was also endorsed by the State Emergency Communications Committee (SECC).

If there is a threat of actual severe weather on April 19, the test will be postponed until April 20, 2017. If there is a threat of severe weather on April 20 the test will be cancelled. The go/no-go decision will be made by 4pm the day prior by the National Weather Service, as well as the Statewide Tornado Drill Working Group. MAB will post a go/no-go status on its homepage at http://www.michmab.com.

While the audio of this test will repeat several times in the script “This is a Test,” and with the EAS Tornado Code being used, the crawl on TV stations and cable stations will read “A Tornado Warning has been issued for…(and it will list your counties).” We ask that TV broadcasters and cable operators participating in the test to display a “This is a Test” graphic behind the crawl.

An updated graphics kit for on-air, web and social media use is available here.

The test will be originated on the NOAA Weather Radio (NWR) and these tests will will cover all counties in Michigan and will originate from the NWS offices at Grand Rapids, Gaylord, Marquette, Detroit/Pontiac and Northern Indiana. They will be relayed via the State Relay (SR) and Local Primary (LP) stations.

The TOR code test may be run in lieu of a Required Weekly Test (RWT) the week of April 17, 2017.

What to Expect in Your Market on April 19, 2017

As noted above, its more than likely that your area may experience a test of tornado sirens in addition to the activation of the EAS tornado alert. All businesses, organizations, families and individuals are welcome to participate in the voluntary statewide preparedness activity. Nearly all state of Michigan facilities will be involved.

How Broadcasters Can Help

This is an excellent opportunity for broadcasters to show the importance of radio and television in times of emergencies. We ask broadcasters to take an active role in their communities to alert listeners and viewers about not only the test alerts, but our role in providing vital information to the public in times of severe weather and other emergencies.

Local Emergency Management Coordinators have been encouraged to reach out to broadcasters in advance of the test.

***The MAB asks broadcasters to reach out to their local emergency management personnel regarding the activities in their own market. We ask you to cover it in your news, community affairs programs, popular personality shows and in your weather breaks.***

Please use Emergency Managers in newscast interviews and on your local morning shows and talk programming.

Not certain who to contact? The MAB has a list of statewide emergency management contacts available here.

A Statewide Tornado Drill Media Toolkit, including talking points, sample social media posts and more is available. Download the kit here.

An updated graphics kit for on-air, web and social media use is available here.

If you have not done so, the MAB encourages you to begin on-air mentions and promotion of the tornado test as soon as possible.

There are recorded radio PSAs for severe weather week available as well as a live read script for both radio and television:

PSA #1 :30 Download (Statewide Tornado Drill)
PSA #2 :30 Download (Outdoor Sirens)
Live Read Script Download

The State of Michigan has prepared graphics for use on your webpage and social media posts here.

Additional Information/Contacts

The official website for the Statewide Tornado Alert: http://michigan.gov/miready

Michigan State Police contact:

Dale R. George
Public Information Officer
Emergency Management and Homeland Security
Michigan State Police
7150 Harris Drive
Dimondale, Michigan 48821
Phone: 517-284-3962
Fax: 517-284-3857
GeorgeD5@michigan.gov

Michigan Association of Broadcasters contact:

Dan Kelley
Technology Manager
Phone: (517) 484-7444
dkelley@michmab.com

Reminder: Statewide Tornado Drill/Test April 19, 2017

Graphic 005In cooperation with the Michigan State Police, Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division, and with the endorsement of the MAB Board of Directors, the National Weather Service will conduct a test with the Tornado Warning EAS Code at 1:00pm Eastern Time on Wednesday, April 19, 2017 as part of Michigan’s Severe Weather Awareness Week. The MAB received a waiver from the FCC to use the actual EAS Tornado Warning Code (“TOR”) for this statewide test.

This test will be in conjunction with a statewide tornado drill. In addition to the EAS activation, your area may experience a test of tornado sirens which may alarm some members of the public. Your assistance in informing the public before the test is requested.

The MAB Board of Directors encourages all broadcasters and cable operators to participate. Other states, including Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Illinois have conducted similar successful tests in the past few years. Though encouraged, participation in this test by broadcast stations and cable systems is voluntary. This test was also endorsed by the State Emergency Communications Committee (SECC).

If there is a threat of actual severe weather on April 19, the test will be postponed until April 20, 2017. If there is a threat of severe weather on April 20 the test will be cancelled. The go/no-go decision will be made by 4pm the day prior by the National Weather Service, as well as the Statewide Tornado Drill Working group. MAB will post a go or no-go status on its homepage at http://www.michmab.com.

While the audio of this test will repeat several times in the script “This is a Test,” and with the EAS Tornado Code being used, the crawl on TV stations and cable stations will read “A Tornado Warning has been issued for…(and it will list your counties).” We ask that TV broadcasters and cable operators participating in the test to display a “This is a Test” graphic behind the crawl.

An updated graphics kit for on-air, web and social media use is available here.

The test will be originated on the NOAA Weather Radio (NWR) and these tests will will cover all counties in Michigan and will originate from the NWS offices at Grand Rapids, Gaylord, Marquette, Detroit/Pontiac, and Northern Indiana. They will be relayed via the State Relay (SR) and Local Primary (LP) stations.

The TOR code test may be run in lieu of a Required Weekly Test (RWT) the week of April 17, 2017.

What to Expect in Your Market on April 19, 2017

As noted above, its more than likely that your area may experience a test of tornado sirens in addition to the activation of the EAS tornado alert. All businesses, organizations, families, and individuals are welcome to participate in the voluntary statewide preparedness activity. Nearly all state of Michigan facilities will be involved.

How Broadcasters Can Help

This is an excellent opportunity for broadcasters to show the importance of radio and television in times of emergencies. We ask broadcasters to take an active role in their communities to alert listeners and viewers about not only the test alerts, but our role in providing vital information to the public in times of severe weather and other emergencies.

Local Emergency Management Coordinators have been encouraged to reach out to broadcasters in advance of the test.

***The MAB asks broadcasters to reach out to their local emergency management personnel regarding the activities in their own market. We ask you to cover it in your news, community affairs programs, popular personality shows and in your weather breaks.***

Please use Emergency Managers in newscast interviews and on your local morning shows and talk programming.

Not certain who to contact? The MAB has a list of statewide emergency management contacts available here.

A Statewide Tornado Drill Media Toolkit, including talking points, sample social media posts, and more. Download the kit here.

An updated graphics kit for on-air, web and social media use is available here.

The MAB encourages you to begin on-air mentions and promotion of the tornado test no later than April 9 (ten days from the test).

There are recorded radio PSAs for severe weather week available as well as a live read script for both radio and television:

PSA #1 :30 Download (Statewide Tornado Drill)
PSA #2 :30 Download (Outdoor Sirens)
Live Read Script Download

The State of Michigan has prepared graphics for use on your webpage and social media posts here.

Additional Information/Contacts

The official website for the Statewide Tornado Alert: http://michigan.gov/miready

Michigan State Police contact:

Dale R. George
Public Information Officer
Emergency Management and Homeland Security
Michigan State Police
7150 Harris Drive
Dimondale, Michigan 48821
Phone: 517-284-3962
Fax: 517-284-3857
GeorgeD5@michigan.gov

Michigan Association of Broadcasters contact:

Dan Kelley
Technology Manager
Phone: (517) 484-7444
dkelley@michmab.com

Statewide Tornado Drill & Test – April 19, 2017

Graphic 005In cooperation with the Michigan State Police, Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division, and with the endorsement of the MAB Board of Directors, the National Weather Service will conduct a test with the Tornado Warning EAS Code at 1:00pm Eastern Time on Wednesday, April 19, 2017 as part of Michigan’s Severe Weather Awareness Week. The MAB received a waiver from the FCC to use the actual EAS Tornado Warning Code (“TOR”) for this statewide test.

This test will be in conjunction with a statewide tornado drill. In addition to the EAS activation, your area may experience a test of tornado sirens which may alarm some members of the public. Your assistance in informing the public before the test is requested.

The MAB Board of Directors encourages all broadcasters and cable operators to participate. Other states, including Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Illinois have conducted similar successful tests in the past few years. Though encouraged, participation in this test by broadcast stations and cable systems is voluntary. This test was also endorsed by the State Emergency Communications Committee (SECC).

If there is a threat of actual severe weather on April 19, the test will be postponed until April 20, 2017. If there is a threat of severe weather on April 20 the test will be cancelled. The go/no-go decision will be made by 4pm the day prior by the National Weather Service, as well as the Statewide Tornado Drill Working group. MAB will post a go or no-go status on its homepage at http://www.michmab.com.

While the audio of this test will repeat several times in the script “This is a Test,” and with the EAS Tornado Code being used, the crawl on TV stations and cable stations will read “A Tornado Warning has been issued for…(and it will list your counties).” We ask that TV broadcasters and cable operators participating in the test to display a “This is a Test” graphic behind the crawl. 

The test will be originated on the NOAA Weather Radio (NWR) and these tests will will cover all counties in Michigan and will originate from the NWS offices at Grand Rapids, Gaylord, Marquette, Detroit/Pontiac, and Northern Indiana. They will be relayed via the State Relay (SR) and Local Primary (LP) stations.

What to Expect in Your Market on April 19, 2017

As noted above, its more than likely that your area may experience a test of tornado sirens in addition to the activation of the EAS tornado alert. All businesses, organizations, families, and individuals are welcome to participate in the voluntary statewide preparedness activity. Nearly all state of Michigan facilities will be involved.

How Broadcasters Can Help

This is an excellent opportunity for broadcasters to show the importance of radio and television in times of emergencies. We ask broadcasters to take an active role in their communities to alert listeners and viewers about not only the test alerts, but our role in providing vital information to the public in times of severe weather and other emergencies.

Local Emergency Management Coordinators have been encouraged to reach out to broadcasters in advance of the test.

***The MAB asks broadcasters to reach out to their local emergency management personnel regarding the activities in their own market. We ask you to cover it in your news, community affairs programs, popular personality shows and in your weather breaks.***

Please use Emergency Managers in newscast interviews and on your local morning shows and talk programming.

Not certain who to contact? The MAB has a list of statewide emergency management contacts available here.

A Statewide Tornado Drill Media Toolkit, including talking points, sample social media posts, and more. Download the kit here.

The MAB encourages you to begin on-air mentions and promotion of the tornado test no later than April 9 (ten days from the test).

There are recorded radio PSAs for severe weather week available:

PSA #1 :30 Download (Statewide Tornado Drill)

The State of Michigan has prepared graphics for use on your webpage and social media posts here.

Additional Information/Contacts

The official website for the Statewide Tornado Alert: http://michigan.gov/miready

Michigan State Police contact:

Dale R. George
Public Information Officer
Emergency Management and Homeland Security
Michigan State Police
7150 Harris Drive
Dimondale, Michigan 48821
Phone: 517-284-3962
Fax: 517-284-3857
GeorgeD5@michigan.gov

Michigan Association of Broadcasters contact:

Dan Kelley
Technology Manager
Phone: (517) 484-7444
dkelley@michmab.com

Statewide Tornado Test Scheduled April 19

Michigan Statewide Tornado DrillIn conjunction with Michigan’s Severe Weather Awareness Week, April 16-22, broadcasters and emergency management partners statewide are encouraged to participate in a statewide tornado drill at 1:00 p.m. ET on Wednesday, April 19.

Test details and a severe weather prepardness handbook will be distributed to broadcasters this next week via email and on the MAB website.

With the endorsement of the MAB Board of Directors, the National Weather Service will conduct the test with the Tornado Warning EAS Code.  The MAB received a waiver from the FCC to use the actual EAS Tornado Warning Code (“TOR”) for this statewide test.

As with last year’s test, participation by broadcasters is voluntary.

In 2016, some areas in the state received multiple EAS alerts from the NWS weather radio.  After reviewing the results of last year’s test, the weather service has corrected the issues regarding those multiple alerts.

In addition to the EAS activation, areas of the state may also be testing outdoor tornado sirens,  which may alarm some members of the public. Your assistance in informing the public before the test is requested.

Indiana EAS Breach Is Reminder of Real Cybersecurity Threat to Stations

eas-logo_300You may have read that an Indiana broadcaster’s EAS system was recently hacked, triggering multiple EAS alerts on linked stations and warning of a “zombie invasion.” The station group has been in touch with federal authorities and equipment suppliers to diagnose exactly what happened.

“Last week’s attack is all the reminder a station owner, general manager, and engineering staff need to conduct an immediate assessment of your station’s firewall and password management process. A vulnerable firewall led to the intrusion into this station’s system, and I strongly recommend that station personnel review the cybersecurity precautions needed to keep our broadcast facilities safe from attack,” said Indiana Broadcasters Association (IBA) State EAS Committee Chair Dan Mettler of iHeartMedia.

In an effort to avoid a similar issue at your station(s), it is highly recommended that you confirm changing EAS hardware from the default password and confirm EAS hardware is on a secure firewall that is setup without the default password or default IP address.

In the Indiana situation, apparently (as the result of a power outage a few weeks prior), the station’s firewall defaulted to an out-of-box condition that was eventually hacked after it was pinged repeatedly by an unknown person or persons.  The hacker was able to crack into the stations’ SAGE EAS encoder and hijack the broadcast airwaves from linked stations for several minutes. The FCC, the FBI, and state Department of Homeland Security have all been involved. The vendor, SAGE, has sent new equipment to the station and encoder that was compromised is being evaluated by the company.

The MAB has reminded broadcasters to change default passwords on any equipment in the past, citing issues with Barix streaming devices.

Keeping broadcast facilities and listeners safe should be a high priority and Michigan broadcasters should be certain that they are not only prepared for an emergency, but also carefully following security precautions.

Update:  Another hacking incident occured last week in Philadelphia where a radio station’s RDS was hijacked, displaying a anti-Trump message, including an expletive.