Category Archives: EAS and Amber Alerts

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.

Statewide Tornado Drill Scheduled for 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.

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.

The MAB will be distributing more details and information to broadcasters within the next few weeks.

Statewide Tornado Drill Scheduled for April 19

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

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.

The MAB will be distributing more details and information to broadcasters within the next few weeks.

FCC Calls Nationwide EAS Test Successful

eas-logo_300The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) reports that the nationwide EAS test, conducted in September 2016, was a success, though it revealed “shortfalls” in some state-level EAS plans and other areas that could be improved.

FCC public safety officials note that improvements made to EAS after the first nationwide test five years ago, plus the implementation of a new online reporting system, “appear to have significantly improved test performance over what was observed during the 2011 test.”

The Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau identified several areas where the Commission could take steps to “potentially strengthen the EAS” and listed some examples, including:

Some EAS participants experienced poor quality audio and were not able to deliver the Spanish language alert because they received the test from an over-the-air broadcast source before their EAS equipment performed its regular check of the IPAWS internet feed, which typically occurs every 30 seconds. Requiring participants to check the internet-based IPAWS feed upon receiving a broadcast alert and transmit the corresponding CAP alert, if available, would ensure that the most timely and content-rich version of the alert is broadcast. This would be particularly important for time-sensitive alerts, such as earthquake early warnings, where seconds matter. The CAP alert would contain a clear digital audio file as well as any available text or audio files in languages other than English.

Some people with disabilities reported difficulty receiving or understanding alert text or audio. EAS tests can be made more accessible by applying the accessibility rules that already apply to live EAS alerts to EAS tests.

Some plans were difficult for EAS participants to locate, while others presented monitoring obligations and other information in a manner that EAS participants found difficult to implement. The FCC can take steps to further facilitate the centralization and standardization of plan information.

Some participants did not receive the alert because they did not properly configure or maintain their equipment. The FCC, in coordination with state emergency communications committees, state broadcast associations and other stakeholders, will use the test results to provide guidance to those EAS participants that experienced technical difficulties.The test included the first use of the FCC’s new online EAS Test Reporting System. The staff said it will continue to analyze the results in conjunction with FEMA and said it is continuing to accept late-filed test results.

Some 85% of test participants successfully retransmitted the test alert; 69% reported no complications in receiving or retransmitting. “Many EAS participants reported that the test alert that they received featured the high quality audio from the CAP-based alert that FEMA distributed via IPAWS.”

For the first time, 74 EAS participants retransmitted the IPAWS-generated Spanish language version of the alert. And reports from the commission’s Public Safety Support Center proved effective for collecting feedback and should continue to be used for EAS tests.