Category Archives: EAS and Amber Alerts

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.

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.

 

Are You Ready for the National EAS Test?

This originally appeared on the SBE-EAS Listserve.

To help broadcasters better prepare for the September 27, 2017 National Periodic Test of the Emergency Alert System (EAS), here is a list of issues that occurred during the 2016 national test that EAS participants might want to check:

1. Check that Text-to-Speech, if audio file is not available, is
enabled for CAP messages on EAS equipment.

a) Although optional in the FCC rules, TTS really should be mandatory.  If the NPT audio file can’t be retrieved, without TTS enabled, a “silent” message will be broadcast. TTS may sound ugly, but it is better than silence.
b). This varies by EAS manufacturer and sometimes in an obscure part of the configuration.

2. Listen to on-air EAS equipment audio output levels, don’t just rely on equipment logs. EAS audio must replace the program audio completely.

a) All program audio channels – right, left, 5.1 surround, secondary audio program, etc.
b) Don’t duck the program audio under the EAS audio – replace the program audio with EAS.
c) EAS audio loudness should be similar to normal program audio levels – not substantially louder or quieter.
d) Verify audio clock rate is configured consistently on EAS and
transmission chain equipment.

3. Check middleware programming and downstream connections (mostly television and cable systems). View the on-air video output of the EAS equipment, don’t just rely on equipment logs.

a) Middleware includes control systems, switching systems, RF systems and distribution elements.
b) The entire EAS message from first EAS header data burst until after the last EOM data burst is included.
c) Video crawl must display at least one complete crawl, even if the audio message is shorter or longer. The crawl should be readable and understandable – not extremely fast or slow.

4. Satellite program syndicators and satellite fed stations should understand which one is responsible for EAS as part of the program transmission chain.

a) NPR squawk and Premiere Networks supply national EAS
(PEP) on a distinct audio feed separate from normal programming. The EAS source channel may be connected to one of the EAS equipment audio input channels. The 2017 NPT will not be transmitted by NPR squawk or Premiere Networks; however, a real EAN could be.
b) Program syndicators should inform their affiliates if their satellite feed is pre-EAS (without EAS data bursts) or post-EAS (may include EAS data bursts).
c) Satellite affiliates with local EAS equipment should ask for a pre-EAS satellite source (without EAS data bursts)
d) Translator stations and hub-feed satellite stations without local EAS equipment must have a post-EAS (including EAS data bursts) source.

5. Not new, but still an issue. Check the system time on equipment, both EAS and automation systems.

FEMA: 2016 IPAWS EAS National Test Report
FCC: Report: September 28, 2016 Nationwide EAS Test

 

FCC Still Accepting EAS Form One

Radio World reports that the FCC has extended the deadline for broadcasters to file ETRS Form One due to Hurricane Harvey.

“We are aware that some EAS Participants are currently responding to the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey,” the commission posted on its EAS Test Reporting System web page.

“Please know we will continue to accept Form One filings that are submitted in ETRS after the August 28 deadline. We ask all EAS Participants to file Form One as soon as possible. Thank you for your cooperation.”

As broadcasters should be aware by now,  The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), in collaboration with the FCC, will conduct its third nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System at 2:20 p.m., Eastern Time on September 27.  If weather or other conditions that require rescheduling, the backup is Oct. 4.

All EAS participants, which includes most broadcast stations, were supposed to complete the 2017 ETRS Form One by August 28 for each of its EAS decoders, encoders or combo boxes., and should do so as soon as possible.

On test day, you must then file “day of test” info on Form Two; and the Form Three needs to be completed by Nov. 13.

FCC Releases New EAS Guide

To help small businesses, nonprofits and small governmental jurisdictions comply with its latest EAS rules, the Federal Communications Commission has released the “Small Entity Compliance Guide Review of the Emergency Alert System.”

The guide is available here.

Last year, the commission adopted an order resolving a petition filed years before by the Independent Spanish Broadcasters Association, Office of Communication of the United Church of Christ Inc. and Minority Media and Telecommunications Council. It revised Part 11 EAS regulations to establish certain reporting requirements applicable to EAS participants, including radio stations, and to State Emergency Communications Committees.

By Nov. 6, 2017, EAS participants must now share:
A description of actions they have taken to EAS alert content available in languages other than English to its non-English speaking audience(s).

A description of any future actions planned by the participant, in consultation with state and local emergency authorities, to provide EAS alerts in languages other than English to its non-English speaking audience(s), along with an explanation for the decision to plan or not plan such actions.

Also, by May 4, 2018, SECCs must provide a summary of such information received from EAS participants as an amendment to included in their State EAS Plans.

It also said that within 60 days, EAS participants have to report any notable changes to information reported earlier, writing to their respective SECCs and chief of the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau. These will then be considered amendments to the State EAS Plans.

And the commission encouraged participants to provide SECCs with further information such as state-specific demographics on languages spoken and identification of resources used or necessary to originate current or proposed multilingual EAS alert content, as well as pilot projects or other initiatives that involve translation technologies or other approaches to providing non-English alerts and emergency information.

Michigan’s SECC will be surveying EAS participants in the state, including radio, television and cable participants gather this information.

Reminder: ETRS Form One Registration Due Monday

Lauren Lynch Flick

By Lauren Lynch Flick,
Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP

The FCC and FEMA have established September 27, 2017 as the date for the next nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System (EAS). Like last year’s test, all EAS participants must file Form 1 a month before the test. The Form 1 has been modified, however, requiring information that was not requested previously. In addition, the FCC’s Emergency Test Reporting System (ETRS) has been revamped so that prior log in codes do not work and the system’s functionality is now unfamiliar to prior users. As a result, while the Form 1 is technically due next Monday, August 28, anyone who has not yet started the filing process should begin immediately and aim to finish the process this week.

Abandoning the ETRS log in system from the prior test, the ETRS now relies on log in information from an entirely separate FCC database, the Commission Registration System (CORES). Therefore, the first step in filing the Form 1 in the ETRS is the rather unintuitive step of establishing an FCC Username and Password in the CORES. While this step might be simple enough in and of itself, it is important to understand that the CORES system confers control of the licensee’s Federal Registration Number (FRN) on the first person to lay claim to it.

Many broadcasters only know the FRN as the number they have to frantically search for every September when paying their Annual Regulatory Fees. But the FRN and password are increasingly used as the log in for many of the FCC’s other filing systems such as the new Licensing Management System that TV stations use for most application filings, the Universal Licensing System which is the licensing system for stations’ wireless facilities like broadcast auxiliaries and business radios, the International Bureau’s filing system for stations’ earth station facilities, and even an alternate log in for the new Online Public Inspection File. Therefore, every station owner should establish a CORES Username and Password or have their lawyer do so on their behalf, and then claim the role of “Admin” of their FRN, even if someone else will be making their ETRS filings.

Once the licensee has claimed the Admin role for the station’s FRN, the person making the ETRS filings for the station must establish a CORES Username and Password for themselves and request that the FRN Admin associate the licensee’s FRN with their account. Only once all those steps are complete will the person making the ETRS filings be able to even draft the Form 1.

To reach the Form 1, filers should log into the ETRS using their own CORES Username and Password. A message may appear at the top of the page upon logging in saying that no FRNs are associated with the account. If you think you have in fact associated the FRN with the account, proceed with drafting the Form 1, as the FRN may appear in the pull down menu despite that message.

Information about the station’s transmitter location, EAS equipment, and stations monitored will prefill from the Form 1 filed for the last nationwide test. This year, stations must also provide the location of their EAS receivers. The FCC is requesting this information to be able to map where signals are received and sent so that it can better understand any communications breakdowns. Also new this year, stations will see an instruction to file a separate Form 1 for each encoder, decoder or combination unit. It is likely that most broadcasters have a combination unit and therefore only need to file one Form 1. 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.

So if you were procrastinating before filing the Form 1, or tried and were stymied by the FCC’s updated filing system, it’s time to get moving. Monday’s deadline is coming fast.

False EAS Test Startles Island of Guam

According to a report in InsideRadio residents of the the U.S. territory of Guam were startled by an activation of the Emergency Alert System (EAS) shortly after 12 a.m. on August 15. The alert originated from Inter-Island Communications religious teaching KTWG (801), which assured the public afterward that “the unauthorized test was not connected to any emergency, threat or warning.”

The alert occurred at 12:25 a.m. and included the message: “A broadcast station or cable system has issued a civil danger warning for the following counties/areas: Guam, Guam; at 12:25 a.m. on August 15, 2017 effective until 12:40 a.m.”

Officials with Guam Homeland Security and Civil Defense (GHS/OCD), along with the Mariana Regional Fusion Control (MFRC), said there was no change in the threat levels for the island territory and the test was unscheduled and an error. They added that they are working with federal and military partners to continue to monitor the recent events surrounding North Korea and threats aimed at the island territory.

Guam and the U.S. air and naval bases stationed there have been under alert since North Korea threatened to fire missiles into the sea near the island. However, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has since stood down and backed off the plan, according to state media.

The station that aired the erroneous alert added that it is working with the GHS/OCD “to ensure the human error will not occur again.”