On April 14-19, 2012, the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) held its annual show at the Las Vegas Convention Center, the only facility large enough to accommodate the 100,000 attendees (attendance looked to be up from last year’s 92,708) and the 1600+ exhibitors.  The Emergency Alert System (EAS) was highlighted in an all-morning session on Wednesday, and several vendors were showing new EAS-related innovations.

The quick hits from the EAS session:

  • Admiral Jamie Barnett will be leaving his post at FCC as Chief of the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau at the end of April.  The Acting Chief will be David Furth.
  • Only 60% of EAS Participants reported their results to the FCC on the Nationwide EAS Test.  This reporting is required, and Tom Beers from the FCC said “enforcement action is very possible” against EAS Participants that haven’t reported their test results.  He said in order to check if the FCC has received your test results, EAS Participants can contact: Timothy.May [at] fcc.gov.  In addition, members of the National Alliance of State Broadcasters Associations (NASBA) that were in the audience said that NASBA would be willing to work with the state broadcasters associations to elicit responses from the errant broadcasters.
  • Antwane Johnson from FEMA said that there would likely be follow-up nationwide EAS tests, but not in 2012.
  • It was reported that the FEMA Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) is working closely with third party developers, such as Pandora, Google and AOL, to distribute IPAWS alerts.
  • Over 3000 people from all 50 states have taken the IS-247 IPAWS online training course.
  • There are currently 64 Primary Entry Point (PEP) stations, six more are under construction, and by the end of 2013 there will be 77 PEP stations in operation.  By the end of summer, all PEP stations will be receiving their audio via satellite which will improve the quality and reliability of audio delivery at the PEPs.
  • The issue of cable override was brought up, the practice of cable systems interrupting local broadcaster video to air a generic cable system EAS message when the broadcaster may be carrying more detailed information.  While FCC rules allow cable systems to enter into agreements to not interrupt local broadcaster video, many of the current digital-based cable systems do not offer the cable operator the capability to exclude certain channels from an EAS message relay.  Tom Beers from the FCC said the Commission has the issue under consideration and they are listening.

On the exhibit floor…

  • TFT Inc. was showing their new touch-screen EAS/CAP encoder/decoder, but it has not yet passed the required FEMA Conformance Assessment testing to be offered for sale.
  • The HD Radio exhibit was showing their “Active Radio” feature, which displays the enhanced text messages of Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) EAS messages on the display of both FM and AM HD Radio receivers.  Yes, for the first time AM stations can now transmit text to receivers, using HD Radio.  Successful experiments have been conducted with 324-character messages transmitted on AM HD Radio stations.  Although HD Radio receivers that can display this Active Radio feature are just coming to market now, this is the time for broadcasters to talk with their EAS/CAP unit vendor about getting their EAS unit connected to the station HD Radio Exporter to have these emergency text messages available for these new receivers.
  • The Mobile Digital TV pavilion had a demo of the “M-EAS” Mobile Emergency Alert System that relays IPAWS alerts to mobile DTV receivers.  This initiative was announced in a session at last year’s NAB Show, and this year’s show offered prototype receivers in action.  Of note is that FCC Chairman Genachowki said in his remarks that MetroPCS is rolling out mobile DTV to their handsets.

AWARE will stay abreast with these developing stories and provide updates as progress is made.  Were you at the NAB Show?  Did you see additional items of interest to AWARE readers?  Leave a reply comment below and spread the word.

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