This is the second in a series of 4 reports on the recent National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) Convention held April 9-14 in Las Vegas, NV.

This report continues with news from the Wednesday morning session entitled, “Next-Generation EAS: The Final Stretch”. In a video on FEMA’s Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) presented by Damon Penn, Assistant Administrator for National Continuity Programs at FEMA, it was noted that alert originators must successfully complete “FEMA-sponsored training” before they will be granted permission to use IPAWS. In discussions with two FEMA officials in their booth on the convention floor, it was confirmed that this online training will be mandatory for IPAWS access, and will be offered by the FEMA Emergency Management Institute (EMI) in the same manner as other National Incident Management System (NIMS) courses that first responders must complete. This is welcome news for broadcasters, who have long wanted greater visibility for EAS among first responders. This training will not only inform them of the new capabilities of EAS-CAP, but will encourage best practices outlined in the course. This will be a win-win for both providers and users of EAS-CAP.

FEMA promised more training in a recent webinar, and they kicked off that effort in their booth on the NAB floor with twelve 30-minute Hands-On Workshops conducted throughout the four-day convention. These seminars were well attended and appeared to be quite successful. During the previously mentioned Wednesday morning NAB session, Antwane Johnson, Division Director and Program Manager for FEMA IPAWS, also spoke of training that will be conducted with the Regional Emergency Communications Coordination Working Group (RECCWG) in each of the 10 FEMA Regions.

On the topic of engaging state and local officials, Greg Cooke from the FCC Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau stated that the new EAS rules already in place designate an alert from a State Governor as must-carry for broadcasters if the message is delivered in the Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) format. The Commission views this as an incentive for state governments to become more involved in EAS and spark their desire for upgrading their state EAS system to CAP capability (hopefully by designating grant funding to this purpose). He also pointed out that the upcoming public awareness campaign for the National EAS Test later this year will be an opportunity for broadcasters and emergency managers to work together to promote and improve EAS.

FEMA’s Antwane Johnson also noted the outreach, training and education that will be needed to prepare broadcasters, public officials and agencies, and the general public for the National EAS Test. He reported that similar efforts prior to the statewide EAS test in Alaska earlier this year helped make that test a success. There were no announcements at the NAB Convention regarding the outstanding decisions on the National EAS Test.

In our next NAB Convention Report, we will update you on everyone’s favorite acronyms: OPEN, RSS, CA, CMAS, WRIP, PEP and more.

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On April 6th, a webinar monitored by over 225 attendees was conducted featuring Manny Centeno, the Program Manager for the FEMA Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) involvement in the upcoming National EAS Test. The test is to take place later this year, although a date and time was not yet stated. Other outstanding questions that I outlined in my previous AWARE posting on the National EAS Test went unanswered as well, although most of those are for the FCC, not FEMA, to determine. One of the issues I brought up on the webinar is if the EAT (Emergency Action Termination) EAS Code will be used as part of the test. Centeno replied no, the EAT will not be sent. This will limit the on-air interruption to just one rather than two alerts. That was welcome news for broadcasters. Another clarification Centeno made is that the NPR Squawk Channel will be used as part of the test. Many states where there is currently poor Primary Entry Point (PEP) Station coverage use the NPR Squawk Channel to receive the national EAS activation. So this was more good news for broadcasters, and State Emergency Communications Committees (SECCs).

In further detailing the test, it was reiterated that this first National EAS Test will not be testing CAP, the Common Alerting Protocol. However, future EAS-CAP tests were referred to. Significant time was spent outlining the lessons learned from the statewide national-code tests done in Alaska in 2010 and 2011. While the second test went better than the first, FEMA admitted it still has improvements to make in the audio quality and the “dead air” between the EAS codes and the audio announcement. In order to improve the quality, FEMA is in the testing and early deployment stages of satellite delivery of the EAS message to PEP stations. It was also stated that the announcement for the nationwide test will be pre-recorded, which is intended to cure the latter problem. 81% of broadcasters and cable operators ran the 2011 Alaska test, with most problems being station-specific not system wide.

Particular mention was made of the excellent cooperation of Alaska broadcasters, cable operators and state homeland security agencies in outreach and coordination for the test. FEMA and all Alaska groups coordinating the early tests agreed that outreach to broadcasters, cable operators, emergency managers and the public is very important and played a large part in the success of the Alaska tests. There will be a 2-month advance notice given before the first nationwide EAS test, and in that ensuing period FEMA and the FCC plan an extensive outreach effort. Bryan J. Fisher, Chief of Operations for the Alaska Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, was also a featured speaker on the webinar and he advised that state and local governments must work with broadcasters to conduct a statewide awareness campaign as well. He volunteered his time to any state wanting assistance in this area via conference call or other collaboration.

One of FEMA’s lessons learned is that broadcasters and cable operators need additional training and guidance on EAS device installation, configuration, monitoring, and operation. To that end, FEMA will work with FCC on improving the EAS Handbook as well as develop workshops, bulletins, industry blogs and best practices. In support of that mission, FEMA will be conducting workshops in its booth at the National Association of Broadcasters annual convention April 11-14 (barring a looming government shutdown). Among other Next Steps identified, FEMA stated they will be supporting the FCC on its forthcoming EAS-CAP rule changes, there was a clear pledge to increase training, and a commitment to an extensive public awareness campaign on the national EAS test.

For more information, visit the FEMA IPAWS Website: http://www.fema.gov/emergency/ipaws/
Or email them at: ipaws@fema.gov

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An EAS Update from FEMA and FCC

On February 15, 2011, in Emergency Alert System, News, by with SRA International

On February 3, 2011, the National Alliance of State Broadcasters Associations (NASBA) and the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) sponsored a webinar featuring Damon Penn, FEMA Assistant Administrator of the National Continuity Programs Directorate, and Jamie Barnett, Chief of the FCC Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau.  This session was an update from the federal government on the progress of implementing the Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) for use in the Emergency Alert System (EAS).

Jamie Barnett started off by saying that EAS is and will remain the backbone of American alerting.  He commented that the FCC is hard at work on a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) dealing with the changes needed in the FCC Part 11 rules dealing with EAS in order to update them for CAP.  While he did not cite a date for the NPRM release, he stated that it will be well before the September CAP deadline.  When questioned on the issue of equipment certification being in the new rules, Barnett said certification will be addressed in the NPRM; the FCC won’t be doing the testing, but there will be rules.  When asked about the timeline for this additional testing, he did not rule out a further extension beyond the current September 30, 2011 deadline for EAS Participants to have CAP equipment installed.

FEMA will also be conducting its own conformance testing.  Damon Penn stated that so far two products have passed that testing, and in March FEMA plans to post a list of conforming equipment on the Responder Knowledge Base website, www.rkb.us  Regarding FEMA Grant money to acquire EAS/CAP equipment, Penn said Grant money is available only to state and local governments so EAS Participants would need to receive any funding through state or local agencies.  Commenting on the ever-present issue of Primary Entry Point (PEP) station coverage issues, Penn reassured participants that the PEP station count is increasing to 74 stations.  The PEP stations at that point will be able to reach 90% of broadcast stations directly over the air.

The rest of the discussion was on the nationwide National EAS Test planned for later this year.  Barnett announced that the FCC was releasing a Report and Order on EAS Testing concurrent with that day’s webinar.  (See separate AWARE posting for an analysis of the R&O.)  Penn reassured broadcasters that the timing of the National test would avoid both hurricane season and the Christmas Holiday advertising season; he said they are shooting for Fall.  He acknowledged that significant outreach before the test will need to take place with EAS Participants, local emergency management and the public.  He noted that broadcasters can start that process now by sharing the logistics of EAS alerts with local emergency managers.  Regarding the January 26th Alaska EAS Test, he said results should be available in the next several weeks.

For an archived version of this webinar, and information on future sessions, go to: www.easalert.org

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by Randy J. Stine, 02.17.2010
ANCHORAGE, Alaska A test of the Emergency Alert System that included the first planned activation of the Emergency Action Notification event code was likely just the first of several exercises the Federal Emergency Management Agency will take, seeking data to help plug coverage gaps in the planned next-gen EAS.

The EAN is the activation code that would allow the president of the United States to address the nation directly via broadcast radio stations, TV stations and cable outlets during a national emergency.

The Alaskan test in January was observed by a large contingent of FEMA and Federal Communications Commission personnel and was deemed a success by most involved despite a few glitches. The Alaska Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, the Alaska Broadcasters Association, the Federal Communications Commission and FEMA officials coordinated the event.

The Alaska Broadcasters Association provided this image for TV and cable systems to use during the test.
The overall success of the exercise will be measured in part by a statewide followup survey of radio and TV broadcasters by the Alaska Broadcasters Association.

The FCC has since proposed an annual nationwide test of the national alert capability of EAS in a subsequent rulemaking proposal and is asking for comments to EB Docket 04-296 (Radio World, Feb. 1).

For more click here: http://www.radioworld.com/article/94818

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Alaskans tuning in to their radios and TVs Wednesday morning will witness the first national emergency exercise of its kind.

Radio, television and cable providers are participating with federal and Alaska partners in a live statewide test of the nation’s Emergency Alert System that’s employing a never-used code to be applied in a national crisis. The test, set to begin at 10 a.m. (AST), will help officials prepare for a future national exercise not yet scheduled, according to the state and federal officials.

The three-minute airing, to be activated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, is unlike regular periodic tests aired by broadcasters. It’s the first official activation of the Emergency Action Notification code, which technically gives the president access to airwaves to address Americans during a national crisis.

More at: http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/wire/sns-ap-us-alaska-emergency-test,0,7539364.story