2019 National Periodic Test Date Announced

FEMA has announced that the 2019 National Periodic Test (NPT) will issued Wednesday, Aug. 7 at 2:20 p.m. EDT (18:20 GMT). The alternate date is Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2019.

Alfred Kenyon, chief, Customer Support Branch IPAWS Program Office, indicated, “This year FEMA proposes to originate the test via the National Public Warning System composed of the FEMA designated Primary Entry Point (PEP) facilities. The intent of conducting the test in this fashion is to determine the capability of the Emergency Alert System (EAS) to deliver messages to the public in event that dissemination via internet is not available. The public should be aware that full message text and multilingual messaging will not be available due to the over-the-air message delivery and relay used in this system of EAS message dissemination.”

All EAS participants are encouraged to verify the two required monitor sources assigned by the State Emergency Communications Committee (SECC). Check not only for the correct source but the quality of the audio. If you not able to receive clearly the assigned sources or have not been receiving the Required Weekly Test (RWT) from both sources, contact your SECC for an alternate source.

The 2019 test will not be fed via the IPAWS network as in past years. The test will be received via each state’s Primary Entry Point (PEP) and relayed by the area LP-1 and LP-2 stations.

EAS Blue Alert Code Becomes Effective January 18, 2019

By Larry Wilkins, CPBE, chair, SBE EAS Advisory Group

In January 2018 the FCC amended its regulations governing the Emergency Alert System (EAS) and Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) to add a new event code, BLU, to allow alert originators to issue an alert whenever a law enforcement officer is injured or killed, missing in connection with his or her official duties, or there is an imminent and credible threat to cause death or serious injury to law enforcement officers.

Delivery of Blue Alerts over EAS will be implemented January 18, 2019.

Sage Endec users: Update firmware will be available next week.

DasDec users: The BLU event code is in the v4.0 software update.

Trilithic/Viavi: includes BLU event code in its v18.10 software update.

Gorman-Redlich: has a update, contact their office for details

As a reminder the BLU event code is in the “voluntary” list, that is, it is not one of the FCC required relay alerts (EAN, NPT, RMT). Stations can elect to relay these alerts or not, with guidance from their state and local EAS plan.

Broadcasters and Cable Operators should watch for information updates from your SECC (State Emergency Communication Committee).

Blue Alerts over WEA takes effect July 18, 2019.

Read the FCC ruling.

Senate Moves READI Act Forward

By Larry Wilkins, CPBE, chair, SBE EAS Advisory Group

Just before the end of the year, the Senate passed the READI (Reliable Emergency Alert Distribution Improvement) Act, a bipartisan bill meant to improve the Emergency Alert System, extend it to new platforms, and avoid a repeat of the false alarm nuclear missile strike alert in Hawaii that drew an FCC investigation.

While most of the points in the bill deal with the creation and origination of EAS alerts, one item is of interest to broadcasters: It would allow broadcasters to repeat presidential and FEMA alerts, something they can’t do now.

The bill still must be passed by the House and approved by the president, after which it will be sent to the FCC and FEMA to work out details of implementation, followed by an FCC notice of rule changes. So, it will be some time before any changes to the way EAS Alerts are created and/or distributed.

The SBE will continue to issue updates as the bill moves through the approval process.

National EAS Test Rescheduled for Oct. 3

The Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA) previously announced that a National EAS test would be sent Sept. 20, 2018. Following the effects of the Hurricane Florence, the test has been moved to the backup date, Oct. 3, 2018.

The times for the test have not changed. At 2:18 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time (EDT), FEMA will send a Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) test message to all WEA-capable wireless devices throughout the entire United States and territories. Immediately following the WEA nationwide end-to-end test, at 2:20 p.m. EDT, FEMA will conduct a live test of the Emergency Alerting System (EAS). All EAS participants are required to participate in this nationwide test. The EAS message will be disseminated via the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS).

Stations are encouraged to verify that their EAS units are communicating correctly with the IPAWS server. Review station logs (which should be checked once each week by the chief operator) to ensure stations are receiving the Required Weekly Test (RWT) from IPAWS. This RWT is fed every Monday at 11:00 a.m. local time. Contact your equipment representative for details on setting up your EAS decoder to properly receive and relay the National test.

EAS participants are reminded that they are required to register with the EAS Test Reporting System (ETRS). Form One was to be filed on or before Aug. 27, 2018. Then on or before 11:59 p.m. EDT, Oct. 3, 2018, EAS participants must file the day-of-test information sought by ETRS Form Two. Post-test data will be filed later with Form Three.

More information is availble from the FEMA website.

EAS National Test Reminder: Do Not Air Alert Tones as Examples

As you prepare your station for the EAS and Wireless Emergency Alert System (WEA) national test on Sept. 20, 2018, remember that the FCC forbids airing the audio attention signal or EAS tones for any reason other than a genuine alert, authorized test, or approved public service announcement. Remind your news and programming operations of this rule.

Any transmission, including broadcast, of the WEA or EAS attention signals or codes, or a simulation of them, under any circumstances other than a genuine alert, authorized test, or approved public service announcement violates the Commission’s rules and undermines the important public safety precautions that WEA and EAS provide. See 47 CFR §§ 10.520(d), 11.45.

While the FCC encourages improving public awareness of WEA and the EAS, including the upcoming nationwide test, broadcasters and cable providers are reminded to exercise caution and avoid inadvertently broadcasting the WEA or EAS tones in a news story.

Any question or concerns with the upcoming nationwide test can be directed to the FCC at alerting@fcc.gov.

Update FEMA Security Certificates by Sept. 24, 2018

By Larry Wilkins, CPBE
Chair, SBE EAS Advisory Group

As a reminder to all engineers, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will update one of its security certificates on Sept. 24, 2018.

Security certificates allow EAS decoders to use the digital signature in the CAP message to verify that the message came from an authorized authority, and that it wasn’t changed between the originator and EAS participants’ equipment. These certificates expire periodically. FEMA currently uses a chain of five certificates for alert validation, one of which expires at 11:55 p.m. EDT on Sept. 24, 2018 (Sep 25 03:55:36 2018 UTC).

Monroe-Electronics and Sage Alerting Systems have both issued updates to their EAS units.

DASDEC users: A field service bulletin and CA file are available from the Digital Alert Systems website at digitalalertsystems.com/resources_fsb.html. All DASDEC and One-Net customers should download the field service bulletin for instructions, and install the new CA file.

Sage Endec users should visit sagealertingsystems.com for compete information on downloading and installing the file in their units.

Engineers are also reminded that FEMA has scheduled a national EAS test on Thursday, Sept. 20. It will be sent at 2:20 p.m. EDT. The test will be fed via IPAWS.

Be aware that preceding the EAS test to broadcasters, FEMA will send a Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) test message to all WEA capable wireless devices throughout the entire United States and territories. That message will be sent at 2:18 p.m. EDT.

National EAS Test Scheduled for Sept. 20

By Larry Wilkins, CPBE, chair, SBE EAS Advisory Group

The Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA) has announced that a National EAS test will be sent on Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018. There is a difference between this test and the two previous tests. At 2:18 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time (EDT), FEMA will send a Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) test message to all WEA capable wireless devices throughout the entire United States and territories. Immediately following the WEA nationwide end-to-end test, at 2:20 p.m. EDT, FEMA will conduct a live test of the Emergency Alerting System (EAS). All EAS participants are required to participate in this nationwide test. The EAS message will be disseminated via the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS).

Stations are encouraged to verify that their EAS units are communicating correctly with the IPAWS server. Review your station logs (which should be checked once each week by the chief operator) to ensure you are receiving the Required Weekly Test (RWT) from IPAWS. This RWT is fed every Monday at 11:00 a.m. local time. Contact your equipment representative for details on setting up your EAS decoder to properly receive and relay the National test.

EAS participants are reminded that they are required to register with the EAS Test Reporting System (ETRS) and must complete the filing of ETRS Form One on or before Aug. 27, 2018. Then on or before 11:59 p.m. EDT, Sept. 20, 2018, EAS participants must file the day-of-test information sought by ETRS Form Two. On or before Nov. 5, 2018, EAS participants must file the detailed post-test data sought by ETRS Form Three.

Filers can access ETRS by visiting the ETRS page of the Commission’s website at www.fcc.gov/general/eas-test-reporting-system. Instructional videos regarding registration and completion of the ETRS Forms are available on the ETRS page.

Preparing For the September 2017 National EAS Test

By Larry Wilkins, CPBE, chair, SBE EAS Advisory Group

All engineers should be aware by now that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has scheduled the 2017 national EAS test for Wednesday, Sept. 27 at 2:20 p.m. ET. This test will be originated and distributed via IPAWS only; the same manner as the 2016 National Test. The test will be sent with the event code NPT for National Periodic Test. All stations are expected to receive the NPT message from IPAWS or off-air and then to relay the NPT message on-air using their normal studio EAS equipment. The message will be sent with both English and Spanish language text and audio.

In preparation for the test a few items engineers need to check.
1. Verify each EAS unit has the correct time displayed. We have seen a number of units that are off by several minutes or on the wrong time zone. Equipment should be programmed to automatically synchronize to an internet time source. Even if it is set to a time server, check the clock for the correct time.

2. Verify you have a local incoming filter programmed to receive the NPT code, and it is set to automatic relay and not log only. The originator should be set to Primary Entry Point, and the event should be set to National Periodic Test (NPT).

3. Verify your station is receiving the IPAWS Required Weekly Test (RWT) on Mondays at 11:00 a.m. local time. This will assure your equipment is polling the IPAWS national server correctly.

4. If your station plans to rebroadcast the alert in Spanish, verify that the correct settings are programmed to access the Spanish version of the message. Since the procedure varies among equipment, contact the support number for your EAS unit.

5. Engineers should (if possible) be on site for the test on Sept. 27. This way you can verify firsthand the proper reception and relay as well the quality of the audio transmission.

Remember also that the FCC will require all stations to report the reception and relay of the NPT via the Commission’s EAS Test Reporting System (ETRS). The user name and password used for the 2016 test will not gain access to the ETRS for this test.

Filers can access the ETRS home page by visiting the ETRS page of the Commission’s website. Instructions for setting a new user name and password as well as filing the proper forms are available on the ETRS site.

All EAS participants must submit Form One on the FCC ETRS site no later than Aug. 28, 2017.

Multiple Streams on a Single Station
Analog and digital broadcast stations that operate as satellites or repeaters of a hub station (or common studio or control point if there is no hub station) and rebroadcast 100 percent of the programming of the hub station (or common studio or control point) may satisfy the requirements through the use of a single set of EAS equipment at the hub station (or common studio or control point) which complies with §11.32 and §11.33.

In other words, if you have one hub station feeding 100 percent of its programming to several other stations, submit a Form One only for the EAS unit at the hub station. If a station has its own programming, it should be filing at least one copy of Form One.

Concerning digital FM stations with auxiliary streams (HD-2 or HD-3) and television stations with auxiliary streams (.2 or .3) these EAS participants should only file for auxiliary streams if they have their own dedicated EAS units.

For example, if the main channel has one EAS unit and the HD-2 and/or HD-3 stream has a separate EAS unit, they should file a separate set of forms. If all three channels share a single unit, they should file one set of forms.

FEMA Announces Date for 2017 National EAS Test

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has set a date for the next National EAS Test: Sept. 27. A secondary date in case there is an actual emergency or weather event that day is Oct. 4. The test will be conducted in the same way (IPAWS) that FEMA originated last year’s test with both English and Spanish language text and audio.

On June 26, 2017, the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau (PSHSB) of the Federal Communications Commission released instructions for Emergency Alert System (EAS) participants to register for access to the 2017 EAS Test Reporting System (ETRS).

The ETRS was used successfully for the second national EAS test conducted last fall. However, based on experience with that test, the FCC has mandated that filers using the 2017 ETRS must use a single account. The PSHSB also stated in its public notice that it will release a further notice in July announcing the opening of the 2017 ETRS, and the date by which EAS participants must file their EAS reporting data.

FCC Seeks Comments on Blue Alert EAS Event Codes

By the SBE EAS Advisory Group
Larry Wilkins, CPBE, chair

In May 2015, President Barack Obama signed into law legislation that created a new kind of public emergency notification: the Blue Alert. It’s similar to the well-known Amber Alert for abducted children, but is meant to help catch people who credibly threaten or actually harm law enforcement officials. Presently a number of states have created a Blue Alert that is designed to go only via email, social media and/or website.

At the request of the Justice Department, the FCC is now considering creating a designated Blue Alert event code, that according to the DOJ would “facilitate and streamline the adoption of new Blue Alert plans throughout the nation and would help to integrate existing plans into a coordinated national framework.” The Commission has announced via a notice of proposed rulemaking that it will accept public comment on the proposed Blue Alert plan and its various elements. The comment period will run for 60 days.

The SBE EAS Advisory Group is presently monitoring this as it travels through the agency and the SBE will issue advisories to members on the status. As always, we encourage broadcasters to weigh in on the issue by using the FCC’s Electronic Comment Filing System for docket PS 15-94. In the meantime, no technical action is required. Do not add the proposed event code yet, and continue to follow existing guidance in applicable state plans regarding any Blue Alert program that might be in effect in your area.

The SBE encourages stations to check with their state broadcaster associations and/or state emergency communication committese (SECC) to see if a Blue Alert program is in use for their state. A number of SBE members serve as chairs or board members of their SECCs. The SECCs will be tasked with formulating a plan for creation and distribution of the new Blue Alerts if adopted.

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