FCC Adds Three EAS Event Weather Codes

The FCC has released a report and order to add three new weather event codes for the Emergency Alert System. The codes are Extreme Wind Warning (EWW), Storm Surge Watch (SSA) and Storm Surge Warning (SSW).

Read the complete report and order at the FCC website.

From the R&O, the FCC will “require EAS equipment manufacturers to integrate these codes into equipment yet to be manufactured or sold, and make necessary software upgrades available to EAS participants no later than six months from the effective date of the rule amendments adopted in this order.”

While the new codes will not need to be added to EAS devices until 2017, the SBE has gathered information on adding the codes.

Gorman-Redlich Users
Gorman-Redlich will deliver new units with the codes as per the deadline. For existing units, contact the compoany. A new EPROM is likely required.

Monroe Electronics/Digital Alert System Users
DASDEC and R189 One-Net software version 3.0 already support these three event codes. If you have v3.0, no further action is needed, aside from selecting the codes from the drop-down menu if you want to use them.

Sage Alerting System Users
Sage plans to include the codes in the upcoming 89.30 release. To add the events now, use the “New Events” tab in the ENDECSetD settings program to define the new event code, then include the codes a filter as needed.

Trilithic Users
EASyCap B4020 software will be updated for the event codes. Users subscribed to the Trilithic Newsgroup will be notified when the update is ready. Starting Jan. 1, 2017, a radio-specific EAS product will be available. There are no plans to update the EASyCast platform. That product platform has reached the end of its service, so unless a large number of users request an update, one will not be released.

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FEMA Plans New England Regional IPAWS Test, Holds Informative Webinars To Prep

FEMA, working with state broadcast associations in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont is planning to conduct a New England regional IPAWS test in September. This test will be a follow-up to the tests conducted in West Virginia last September, which resulted in 90% of participating stations successfully carrying the National Periodic Test EAS code and second test involving participants in Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee, conducted on March 18, 2015, which met with similar success. FEMA is conducting a series of regional tests in preparation for a future nationwide IPAWS test. The goal of these preliminary tests is to evaluate how messages are distributed and propagated throughout the system, and identify areas for improvement.

The next regional test, which will involve participants in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont, will be conducted on Sept. 16, 2015, at 2:20 p.m. Eastern Time. Local radio and television stations are not required to participate in the test; however, broad participation by stations will be very helpful in evaluating how the test messages propagate throughout the region.

In preparation for the test, FEMA is hosting technical webinars on Aug. 19 at 2 p.m. Eastern and Sept. 3 at 10 a.m. Eastern. The webinars will outline how the Sept. 16 test will be conducted, and will also provide information regarding EAS device configuration in preparation for the test. The technical webinars will discuss the technical side of IPAWS and conclude with step-by-step instructions for configuring various EAS devices. The two tech webinars will be essentially identical. The webinars will be recorded and available for later viewing as well.

The webinars are open to all but will specifically address the New England test. FEMA will conduct additional webinars in support of future tests in other areas of the country.

Links

Topic: NE ISSRT Technical Webinar I
Date and Time: August 19, 2015 2:00 p.m., Eastern Daylight Time (New York, GMT-04:00)

Event address for attendees:

http://tinyurl.com/nufuecl

Audio conference information
650-479-3207
Access code: 662 686 997

Topic: NE ISSRT Technical Webinar II
Date and Time: Thursday, September 3, 2015 10:00 am, Eastern Daylight Time (New York, GMT-04:00)

Event address for attendees:

http://tinyurl.com/nlrpfmc

Audio conference information
650-479-3207
Access code: 662 930 173

FCC Issues NPRM To Propose New EAS Event Codes

In a notice of proposed rulemaking adopted July 8, 2015, the Federal Communications Commission proposes to revise the FCC Emergency Alert System (EAS) rules, as set forth in a letter and subsequent comments filed by the National Weather Service (NWS) of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Specifically, the NWS requests that the Commission add three new EAS event codes, covering extreme wind and storm surges, as well as revise the territorial boundaries of the geographic location codes for two offshore marine areas listed in the EAS rules as location codes 75 and 77. The FCC agreed with the NWS that targeted, specific warnings “will help the public and emergency officials better respond to local threat(s).”
The codes specifically requested by the NWS:

Extreme Wind Warning (EWW)
To provide advance notice of the onset of extreme sustained surface winds (greater than or equal to 115 miles per hour) associated with a major land-falling hurricane (category 3 or higher). The NWS explains that using the Tornado Warning (TOR) event code caused confusion when used to warn of Hurricane Charley’s high winds in 2004. The NWS started using the EWW code during the 2007 hurricane season.

Storm Surge Watch (SSA) and Storm Surge Warning (SSW)
The NWS says the Storm Surge Watch/Warning will be issued when there is a significant risk of life-threatening inundation from rising water moving inland from the ocean. In the event of a storm surge, a watch (SSA) would be issued 48 hours in advance of the event taking place and a warning (SSW) would be issued 36 hours in advance of the event, and will help to mitigate damage from storm surge, the leading cause of death in tropical cyclones. The NWS currently does not issue explicit storm surge warnings, although the National Hurricane Center (NHC) has advocated for a storm surge watch and storm surge warning for a number of years. The NWS explains that the current hurricane watch/warning does not provide clear or sufficient information to allow citizens to determine if they are threatened by wind or storm surge or both.

The FCC seeks comments on adding these codes.

The NWS also requests that the Commission revise the areas defined in the geographic location codes identified in section 11.31(f) of the EAS rules as location codes 75 and 77, which cover offshore marine areas. These location codes, and their defined areas, like all the offshore (marine areas) location codes contained in the EAS Protocol, were originally adopted in 2002. Currently, the marine area defined for location code 75 covers “Western North Atlantic Ocean, and along U.S. East Coast, south of Currituck Beach Light, N.C., following the coastline into Gulf of Mexico to Bonita Beach, FL, including the Caribbean,” while location code 77 covers “Gulf of Mexico, and along the U.S. Gulf Coast from the Mexican border to Bonita Beach, FL.” The NWS indicates that it has changed the end point it uses for generating weather alerts for both of these areas from Bonita Beach, FL, to Ocean Reef, FL, and, accordingly, requests that the area covered by location code 75 be changed to “Western North Atlantic Ocean, and along U.S. East Coast, south of Currituck Beach Light, NC, following the coastline to Ocean Reef, FL, including the Caribbean,” and that the area covered by location code 77 be changed to “Gulf of Mexico, and along the U.S. Gulf Coast from the Mexican border to Ocean Reef, FL.”

The FCC also proposes revising footnote 1 of section 11.31 to delete the reference to a past deadline and to clarify that the numbers assigned to the offshore marine areas listed in the table of geographic areas in section 11.31(f), while consistent with the format of the state and territory location codes derived from the ANSI standard, are not a product of that standard, but rather were assigned by the NWS.

PS Docket No. 15-94

Read more SBE news and headlines

EAS violations are happening more than you think. Here are some tips –

As an ABIP inspector, I continually find violations at stations regarding EAS.  What’s puzzling about this is that the rules are straight forward, and the EAS devices do most of the work for you! 

One of the first issues I usually find is with logging.  The device keeps an electronic log, which is all well and good.  But I recommend that station personnel print this log once per week for two reasons.  First, you can sign the paper copy, meaning that you looked at it and paid attention to it.  Second, I, at least, find it easier to print the log and then compare it to a calendar to see if anything is missing for a given week.  If you find, for example, that you did not receive a RWT in a given week from your second monitoring source, you need to find out why (maybe the station made a mistake and did not send a test that week), and you need to log the reason for the missing test.  Printing and signing the log forces you to put it in a folder.  Therefore, appending the log when you find something wrong becomes a simple matter. 

The next thing I find are stations monitoring the wrong monitoring assignments.  Note the word ASSIGNMENTS.  The stations you monitor are assigned, usually by a committee associated with your State Broadcasters Association.  EAS is a daisy chain, with some stations higher in the pecking order and others below them.  If you are monitoring the wrong stations, you may not properly receive crucial data and break the chain.  Check with the Broadcasters Association to find out who you should talk to, and make sure you are monitoring the correct stations.  If you cannot receive one of your assignments, you need to inform the Committee.  They will suggest other stations for you to monitor so the chain isn’t broken.  And if a monitoring assignment needs to be changed, the Committee will send you a note to this effect and inform the FCC of the monitoring change.  If the FCC were to inspect your station, they will look to see what stations you are monitoring.  If they are incorrect, this is a violation and your station may be subject to a fine.

Next, you need to be polling the FEMA CAP server.  I have run into one station where their corporate IT department will not unblock the FEMA CAP server, so they cannot receive it.  This is a violation of the rules.  If their IT people don’t seem to understand the regulation that monitoring the CAP server is a requirement, alternative measures, such as installing a separate DSL service, must be implemented. 

And, of course, you must send a Weekly Test every week – with the following exceptions.  You do not need to send a RWT in a week when a RMT (Required Monthly Test) is run, or if you activated EAS for any reason.   And the RMT must be forwarded within 60 minutes of receiving the test.

Any questions you have can be answered in 73 CFR Part 11 of the FCC rules.  It is available on several online sources and is worth the time to read it.

Tom Ray, CPBE, DRB, AMD 

Tom’s views do not reflect those of the SBE, or its Board of Directors.

Sage Alerting System Releases IPAWS Support Filmware

Sage Alerting Systems has posted a message on their site saying:

We plan to release the IPAWS support firmware before 1:00pm EDT today. This is, as always, subject to a little drift.
• This web site is a finite resource. If everyone tries to download at 1:00pm, it won’t be pretty.
• Our support lines are a finite resource as well. If you need to call us, and you get voice mail, leave a message. Don’t try to call back later, assuming we’ll answer the phone then. Leave a message, and we’ll return your call in the order we received it. Don’t try the sales or business office extensions, they can’t call support either if the lines are busy.
• Please read and follow the steps in the release notes carefully. If you haven’t tried to add an IPAWS server by hand, and if your ENDEC is able to sync up to a network time source, the install will go very well. If you have tried to get the ENDEC to poll IPAWS by using instructions from a source other than Sage, you will have problems. Those CAP server entries, with things like “ipaws”, or “http” or “https” followed by anything, won’t work, and will result in a “CAP offline” message. If you can access your ENDEC, you might want to do a little prep work, remove those servers, and upload the settings before you upload the firmware. This is especially true if you used the ENDECSetd included in release 74-2, and built a CAP server with a type of “IPAWS OPEN” and an incorrect URL. Keep any server that is currently working for you, this includes any MyState server or GSS satellite server.

The other EAS encoder manufactures also have information available.

Visit the Emergency Alert System Issues page on the SBE website for more information.

Scott Mason, CPBE, CBNT, SBE EAS Education Committee Chairman