The BDR

The
Broadcasters' Desktop Resource

... edited by Barry Mishkind - the Eclectic Engineer    

Digital Alert Systems

Information on EAS - CAP - IPAWS - FEMA

The idea is to bring some clarity to the issues and answer your questions. Definitions and
a fair amount of historical info is below, including air checks from the National EAS Test
(Last update 8/16/19)

8/15/19 - The FCC released a Public Notice and a list of settlements (totalling $634,000) from the Enforcement Bureau for misabuse/abuse of the EAS (and WEA) tones. The settlements range from broadcast television (ABC's Jimmy Kimmel Live!) and radio (KDAY/KDEY) to cable channels (AMC and Discovery). The FCC has said for some time it is serious about using EAS tones in promos, news, or commercials, although it has been somewhat lenient for news items following the Hawaii false alert.

There is one exception, the FEMA has produced a set of "simulated tones" which sound similar, but will not set off an EAS receiver, and that may be used for promos, news, etc.

8/7/19 - Well, the 2019 NPT came. Perhaps the best way to comment is that there is a lot work to do with the PEP (PEP Map is here) and daisy-chain - the way the EAS works when the Internet is down. Reports from Test Day noted quite a few stations reporting clean audio, and forwarded the test. However, other reports  noted a number of issues:
          1. The test did not reach some areas and states. Florida generally missed the test, as did the upper peninsula of Michigan, and parts of Georgia.
          2. In many places, there was no audio. Wisconsin generally had no audio due to a receiver failure. Some stations in ND, CO, NC, and NH also got no audio.
          3. Many sites reported "scratchy," "unintelligible," or audio with something underneath the NPT.
          4. Stations pulling from Sirius got overly hot audio, fairly distorted.
          5. It appears that Sirius sent a second NPT an hour later, perhaps in error.
          6. Some stations reported the same problem with the FCC's ETRS site, where they were unable to file Form Two, but received messages essentially saying "the server is too busy." Those that got to file Form Two, sometimes had to wait for well over an hour (or more) to get confirmation emails.

Already, some of the problems have been identified, and a few places are planning a "statewide re-do" to see if the daisy chain can be improved and made more reliable.

On the other hand, several states had severe storms occurring, which made reception of some sources difficult (or impossible) or crowded a bit by the local storms. Also, there were a number of RWT's launched during the day by stations - nothing bad, but unnecessary.

There is no date for the FCC to report on the test, but we can hope they are able to summarize things quickly, so SECC's and LECC's can work on corrections.

7/28/19 - The Federal Register has published the FCC's August 2018 changes to the EAS rules, which now require reporting false alerts - known to be false - to the FCC within 24 hours, and SECC's filing news plans electronically.

7/25/19 - The FCC sent out letters today to a large number of stations - presumably testing the contact information from the Form One filings. Some person Kamal ... no phone or other contact info, although the FCC servers do appear in the headers. After some calling to the FCC, it appears this was an attempt by someone at the FCC to push out a Public Notice. The link to the Public Notice is at here.

A later email says that there was some error on their part at alerting@fcc.gov:

"You are receiving this email because you have filed in the ETRS or because you are an EAS Participant registered within an FCC database.?

"Some of you received an email earlier today from FCC Alerting.  The email was sent in error.  We apologize for the inconvenience."

7/22/19 - Everything You Wanted to Know About the 2019 NPT But Were Afraid to Ask!

7/18/19 - Sage Alerting announced a required update on their EAS boxes. The update, required by November 8th, in needed to continue using IPAWS CAP feeds from the FEMA, which will be using TLS 1.2/1.3 (Transport Layer Security, previously known as SSL). This update is apparently NOT NEEDED before the NPT. At this time, it is understood that the upgrade will cost $349 per receiver. 

Most other EAS boxes will not need an update to comply with the TLS 1.2/1.3. DASDEC reports that anyone with Version 3.1 or later (4.0) will be fine, with no further update needed now, nor in the fall.

7/12/19 - The FCC has again extended the Form One deadline. According to the ETRS site, the Form One deadline is now August 5th. If you have any questions on what to, there are now videos at the top of the ETRS page.  Additionally, the quickest way to get help - contact is at etrs@fcc.gov. In case ETRS cannot help (they seem to rely quickly), the Public Notice shows legal issues may be addressed to Elizabeth Cuttner, Attorney Advisor, Policy and Licensing Division, Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau, at elizabeth.cuttner@fcc.gov or Maureen Bizhko, Attorney Advisor, Policy and Licensing Division, Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau, at maureen.bizhko@fcc.gov.

7/5/18 - As part of a response to the LPFM web seminar on July 11th, the FCC has extended the filing of Form One for LPFM stations - and everyone else - to July 12th. Where can you find this information? It is shown on the ETRS, when you log in and see the "ETRS Test Cycles" at the top of the screen. The "Form One Ends" date has been shifted to July 12th.

6/28/19 - The has announced a web seminar on July 11th - 1:00 to 1:45 PM EDT - specially designed to help LPFM stations understand the NPT and reporting. (Last year about half of LPFM stations failed to file on the ETRS, and the FCC hopes to improve that this year.) To access the meeting, use this URL. More information is here.

A general information FAQ for everyone is here.

6/18/19 - With the FCC requiring Form One, some are having issues with the ETRS site. A few workarounds have surfaced, for when your submissions fail (You will get an email to acknowledge successful Form One submissions).

(Note 1) For some reason, the FCC contractor appears to have trouble with some browsers. If your submission does not go through, you might try a different browser. Or you may contact the help desk email address: etrs@fcc.gov

(Note 2)Often, it seems, users are required to do a "dance." The following has worked for many:
  
"Save" your draft
    Sign out from ETRS
    Sign back in to ETRS
    "Open" the draft
    "Save" the draft
    "Submit" the draft

(Note 3) We are still trying to get word to/from the FCC about ensuring the servers will not be overloaded this year, leaving many with frustration.  We hope to have more information before the date of the NPT.

6/10/19 - The Weekly Test from the FEMA was not sent to Eastern Time Zone this week. A log entry should note there was no test.

6/3/19 - The FCC has relayed the dates for the NPT, and announced the ETRS is open for filing Form One for this year. It is required to be filed by July 3rd.

As already noted (see next section), the NPT will be on August 7, with a rain date of August 21st. Hence the Form Two is required on August 7 - or 21 IF the NPT is delayed. And, finally, Form Three is required by September 23rd, 2019.

5/23/19 - The FEMA has informed the FCC that the 2019 NPT will be on August 7th (rain day August 21) at 2:20 PM EDT. The test will NOT include IPAWS nor WEA, as it is designed to test the PEP system.


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THE 2019 NATIONAL EAS TEST

The FEMA has informed the FCC that the 2019 NPT will be on August 7th at 2:20 PM EDT. (A "rain" date is set for August 21) 

This year's test will NOT include IPAWS nor WEA, as it is designed to test the PEP system (including Satellite Relays).

Deadlines of note:
      1. All EAS Participants are required to register with ETRS and must complete the filing of Form One by August 5th.
      2. The 2017 EAS Handbook must be customized, printed, and posted at the EAS Control Point.
      3. Double check to make sure you monitor the correct LP-1 and LP-2, as assigned by the SECC
      4. The "day of test" information sought by ETRS Form Two must be filed at or before 11:59 PM EDT on August 7, 2019.
      5. The detailed post-test data ETRS Form Three must be filed on or before September 23, 2019.

 

 


4/11/19 - An erroneous message from PRSS (Public Radio Satellite Service) indicated they were to run an EAN (ConDep messaging that their NOC was conducting "a special EAN test today at 11:15am ET"). It was not an EAN, but merely an RWT. Reports are they did this last year, too.

2/9/19 - An error in the EMNet system in Michigan is cited as the source of a false Winter Storm Warning this week. Apparently, and NWS line was mis-interpreted and passed to the EAS system via IPAWS. Other similar errors were reported from Alaska to the East Coast. The NWS is investigating.

1/22/19 - A reminder that BLU is now an optional code for EAS. Use is optional.

If you have a DASDEC, it is in Ver 4.0 of their software. Trilithic users have it in Ver 18.10. Sage with have an update next week. Gorman-Redlich users should check with the company.

12/21/18 - The FCC PSHSB has released its "initial" findings regarding the NPT in October.

Here is the link to the FCC ETRS site.

10/3/18 - The 2018 NPT happened on schedule yesterday.
The Good: Most stations got it and relayed it with good audio.
The Bad: Many stations did not get it because of failure to update the FEMA certificate.
The Ugly: The FCC servers were unable to handle those trying to file Form Two, wasting a lot of time, especially for contractors trying to help many rural stations.
 
On the plus side, most reports said the audio was cleaner than last year.

REALLY BAD: some stations using FEMA B-Roll, and the ABC Jimmy Kimmel Show, used EAS tones (Kimmel as many as four times) in news or - worse - comedy lines.
 
The WEA test was more spotty, with perhaps 25% or more failure, mostly due to older cell sites and resistance from some providers like AT&T.

The BDR Notes: The FCC's insistence on using their web site to report (ETRS) again wasted a lot of time for each broadcaster who tried to file.  Some were just delayed, but many contract engineers, asked in to small stations, found the delays and rejections time killers i- plus there was a need for them to know the "password" to each licensee - a real security issue. Will the FCC listen? They have not over the past years' NPTs.

Older EAS notes can be found here.


IPAWS OPEN CAP and the RWT 

The FEMA has listened to requests from the BWWG and the broadcast community and announced the IPAWS OPEN RWTs will continue TFN.
 
These tests - scheduled for Monday at 10 AM local standard time (11 AM DST) for the main time zone in each state - will be initiated by the IPAWS OPEN CAP server each week

Exactly does it mean for a station to be "compliant?"
Each station must purchase, install, and make operative an EAS receiver capable of receiving CAP/EAS messages. The most important change from previous operation is that a station must be connected to the IPAWS CAP server and receiving data. That, of course, requires the new generation of decoders and a wideband Internet connection. At this time, none of the various state/area aggregator tests are required. This will change as state and local plans - or amendments - are filed with the FCC but, as of now, in most places, you are only adding the CAP/EAS to your existing state plan.

Do you have to log the tests from the IPAWS server?
Yes.  ALL TESTS FOR YOUR AREA that are received - and decoded - should be logged, according to the FCC. Tests from other states/areas that are not in your decode chart are not required.

If there is a problem with the IPAWS RWT tests, what should be done?
The FCC currently says that stations may just put "Did not receive RWT from IPAWS" or some such notation. If you know why there was a problem, add that. However, there is no urgent need to search out and log the reason. If we know of any IPAWS OPEN issues, we will note them above.

Will the FEMA have a web page to explain problems/errors?
According to the FEMA, not at this time. Their main concern is that you have a "connected" status. Beyond that, they will distribute information as available, but not necessarily on any schedule.

How often should you poll the IPAWS server?
Some suggestions range from every 30 seconds, to 60 seconds, to as long as 5 minutes. At this time it is up to the station. A slide on a FEMA presentation says 30 seconds. Some receivers default to 60 seconds. In the future, when state and local alerts may be transmitted by CAP, some may feel there is a need to be on the slower end of the scale, but many system experts say 30 seconds is too often.

IPAWS OPEN SERVICE CONNECTION TIPS 

The three most common problems for those installing new EAS receivers:
1. Make sure you have the most current software.  (Especially Sage owners)
2. Have the IPAWS server name (FQDN) entered in the setup.
3. Ensure your firewall will allow you to poll the server.

If you still have issues, contact your receiver's tech support line. 

7/9/12 - Sage owners: there is a software glitch that causes the receiver to lock up. It may be related to momentary loss of connection with the IPAWS or CAP server. A reboot usually resolves the problem. Sage has indicated they will have a software update to try to resolve this issue (Version 89.2).

12/22/11 - The FEMA has released a new online course designed by Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS), for emergency managers and others. The course, IS-247, is designed to support and test skills needed to draft more appropriate, effective, and accessible warning messages and to teach practices for the effective use of Common Alerting Protocol (CAP).
 
Anyone can go through the course and file the test, seeking certification. (It will also give broadcasters an idea of what local EMs are expected to know.)

The FEMA expects to require this training for all emergency warning centers before they are permitted to upload warnings to the FEMA OPEN aggregator server. Completion of IS-247 will also be required for any alerting official to send an alert via IPAWS, and is also to be made part of the NIMS (National Incident Management System), and certification being required in order for agencies to get federal funding.


EAS QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

Definitions  (if all those abbreviations and acronyms confuse you)       back to the top

Questions:

  • Q: What is now required to be on the EAS Log each week?
     
    A: Each station must receive an RWT each week from each monitoring assignment (LP1, LP2, NWR, IPAWS OPEN, etc) as required by the FCC or as noted in the current State Plan. Each station must send an RWT each week.  Once each month an RMT must be received and relayed.
     
    If a test is not received or sent, a notation must be made in the EAS log acknowledging the failure and the reason for the failure, after the Chief Operator investigates.
     
  • Q: Is it true that the FCC requires that OTA (over the air relay) must be used when crafting EAS local and state plans, and will continue that requirement when Part 11 has been re-written.
     
    A: Nowhere in Part 11 is it stated that EAS plans must use OTA systems to propagate EAS messages. Wireless state and local relay networks (LRN's) can (and in the opinion of the BWWG should) be used as point-multi-point distribution means for EAS from warning centers to as many broadcast and cable entry points as possible. There will be exceptions, but OTA Relaying of EAS messages (Daisy Chain) is a carry over from EBS and is (and should only be) only used by those who choose to continue to do so in their EAS plans because there is no other alternative.
      
    Washington state and some other areas are already implementing various forms of LRN's for CAP (Common Alerting Protocol) EAS. At the Federal level the need for relay using CAP should end when all entities subject to Part 11 have their CAP boxes installed and have programmed in IP addresses so they can poll CAP message aggregators. OTA Relaying of EAS messages (Daisy Chain) is a carry over from EBS and is only used by those that choose to continue to do so.

     
  • Q: Does CAP automatically play embedded audio files for the voice portion of CAP-EAS messaging for broadcast?

    A:  No. At TV stations the CAP Text Message data stream generates a video screen crawl. The data stream also generates  audio from a text-to-speech feature built into the EAS box. Radio uses the text-to-speech feature. This completely eliminates the problems with poor audio quality for "Classic EAS".  Yes, CAP messages can carry embedded audio files, but to get around payload/throughput problems they can be posted for download and referred to by putting their URL's in the CAP message.

     
  • Q: What about the CAP Converters?
    A: Several manufacturers have produced add-on boxes that will decode the CAP transmissions and feed them to an existing EAS receiver. At this moment, that seems to satisfy the FCC's requirements.
     
  • Q: What has been settled?
    A: CAP V 1.2 has been adopted by FEMA. The CAP is a very powerful tool that can really improve warnings. (Want to know more about CAP? CAP V 1.2 is described here, 3rd entry from the top.)
     
  • Q: Will there be changes in Part 11?
    A: Yes.  This is one reason some manufacturers have held back in production of EAS boxes, until the all Part 11 changes are known. The FCC has called for comments and promises to release the Part 11 changes "real soon now." 
     
    There still remains a big missing link in Part 11 - there is still no firm connection to local emergency management to make sure that warnings and tests originate properly from the people who have the real responsibility to warn -- i.e., the emergency managers. It is doubtful Part 11 will ever have this included without Congressional action for any number of reasons.  

     
  • Q: Who is in charge of EAS: the FEMA or the FCC?
    A: A very good question. A fair part of the controversy right now is that FEMA IPAWS was originally designed to cover only federal issues geared to federal government continuity, not local/state warnings, mandatory governor level and governor-designee messages, or even AMBER Alerts.
     
    IPAWS scope was extended to the state/local level after prodding by the BWWG, NAB and NASBA, but all the pieces to make this a reality are not in place yet. The FEMA's work to date also does not take into consideration all the elements of state and local concerns that are definitely part of the FCC's Second Report and Order on EAS. This disconnect needs to be worked out.

     
  • Q: Something else you'd like to know?  Ask and we shall try to find the answers. Use the contact form below.

Definitions:

CAP - Common Alerting Protocol
IPAWS - Integrated Public Alert and Warning System
OPEN - Open Platform for Emergency Networks
SOAP - Simple Object Access Protocol
CSRIC - Communications Security, Reliability and Interoperability Council
ECIG - EAS-CAP Industry Group


STATE PLANS

The FCC now is posting the latest State Plans submitted.


WEA .... CMAS

2/25/13 - The FCC has renamed CMAS as WEA - Wireless Emergency Alerts.

6/28/12 - National Weather Radio is now sending out weather alerts to mobile devices that are enabled to receive the CMAS. These alerts - various warnings - announced on the NWS Home Page are in CAP and will include Tornado and Flash Flood Warnings, Hurricane, Typhoon, Dust Storm and Extreme Wind Warnings Blizzard and Ice Storm Warnings, and Tsunami Warnings. More information is on the NWS site here. A chart of the warnings is here.  News reports indicate some alerts have already been sent/received in different parts of the US.
 


Reviewing the 2011 test....

11/12/11  THE ANSWER to the audio mess!

        After analyzing the EAN audio, it has been confirmed that a hardware failure related to the FEMA Bridge at a PEP station - WCCO - was the cause of the audio loop back to the FEMA sending source - a conference bridge. That affected most everyone who got their test via a path from the FEMA PEP bridge and explains why the audio from sample points around the country are very similar.

            If you follow the stations in the chart below, there seems to be some correlation between the decoders that worked and those that did not. There were two aspects that appear to be involved:

  1. The headers. A receiver needs to decode two of the three data bursts to initiate a valid alert. If the signal or audio is marginal, this could cause only one data burst to be "recognized" ... which on some machines (the digital Sages, for example) would cause whatever was on the air to be stopped - then silence until the EOM was received.

  2. The audio levels. It seems like some receivers were very touchy on audio levels, causing distortion that might make it harder for the bursts to be decoded.  Previous tests had shown most EAS receivers could decode bursts with significant distortion, but some of the newer digital machines apparently had trouble if the levels were not in a narrow range.

        Reports also indicate that some with DASDEC receivers got the audio and WAITED
 until 2:03 EST to play the EAN, just as the receiver was designed - to react to the time stamps on the alert. One state was late into their test as the feed from FEMA was unexpectedly lost, and that or something similar may be part of the lack of audio in two other states. Oregon Public Broadcasting was said to have had technical issues, preventing most stations in the state from getting the test.

         We are still chasing down what happened in the places where no audio was received at all.  It does seem that some EAS receivers, upon receipt of a header, mute audio. If, it is postulated, the rest of the header was not decoded properly, it could have left the stream with no audio.  More answers are expected, as the bureaucrats say, RSN.

In the meantime, we will try to offer some more diagnostic info for any of you who want to do more analysis. Here is some other audio,as recorded around the country (if you can add to the information, please let us know!):

EAN Source

 Encoder

Receiving Station

Decoder

Notes
KIIM, Tucson, AZ   KOHN, Sells, AZ TFT

2

KFWB, Los Angeles - PEP Sage KNX, Los Angeles Sage-D

5

KNX, Los Angeles   KLTX, Long Beach, CA Sage-D

5

KFI, Los Angeles   KXLA/KXOL, Los Angeles  

5

KCBS, San Francisco   KQED, San Francisco Sage-D

1

NPR Squawk   KQEI, Sacramento Sage-D

5

KCBS, San Francisco - LP1   KTRB, San Francisco Sage

1

WTAM - Cleveland   WHBC, Canton OH  

1

    WQXK, Salem, OH  

5

WHKO, Dayton, OH - LP1   WSWO-LP, Huber Heights, OH DASDEC II

5

WASK, Lafayette, IN   WBAA, West Lafayette, IN TFT

5

WHO, Des Moines, IA - PEP      

1

    WRKO, Boston  

1

    WICY, Canton, NY Burk

4

NPR - PEP   WMRA, Harrisonburg, VA Burk

4

NPR Squawk   WUVT, Blacksburg, VA Sage-D

5

    KORD, Richland, WA  

1

    KPTZ, Port Townsend, WA   

3

KLBJ, Austin, TX  (TSN?) Sage KUT, Austin, TX Sage

2

KJXJ, Franklin, TX   KUTX, Somerville, TX  

5

KNOW, MN Public Radio Sage KVSC, St Cloud, MN Sage-D

3

    WRVM, Suring, WI  

4

    KNOW, Mpls/St. Paul, MN  

1

WJR, Detroit - PEP Sage      
NPR   WKAR - State Primary Sage

 

WKAR - State Primary Sage WCSG, Grand Rapids, MI  

1

WKAR - State Primary Sage WHMI, Howell, MI TFT

5

WKAR - State Primary Sage Michigan Radio Network TFT  
Michigan Radio Network TFT WTCM, Traverse City, MI TFT

5

KFYR - PEP   KDLR, Devils Lake, ND DASDEC II

1

WSM-FM - PEP, Nashville, TN   WFCM, Murfreesboro, TN DASDEC II

1

WQDR, Raleigh, NC - PEP   WVJD-LP, Raleigh, NC Sage-D

5

WDCG, Raleigh, NC   WQDR, Raleigh, NC Sage

1

WJGH, Jacksonville, FL - LP1 Sage WYRE, St. Augustine, FL Sage

4

WFBC-FM - LP1   WCKI, SC DASDEC II

2

Notes:

  1. Looped Audio, but understandable

  2. Looped Audio, very difficult to understand

  3. Completely unusable audio - truncated

  4. Completely unusable audio - feedback

  5. Silence aside from databursts and/or a few words (often affected by processing)


  TV AND SATELLITE VIDEO:
          
       Twin Cities Public Television, Minneapolis, MN

Don Heppelmann says: "The bottom four boxes are KSMQ-DT in Austin Minnesota.
TCPT provides their master control, but they do their own EAS.
The Four middle boxes are Comcast, DirecTV, Dish, and Comcast.
The rest are Twin Cities Public Television over the air services."

 

 WAS THE 2011 NATIONAL EAS TEST DOOMED AT THE SOURCE?

   FIRST OF ALL:  It was a test!  It was only a test!  No matter what the national media or Lady Gaga lovers say, it was a test. It was largely, in that sense a success, because if nothing else, most every receiver got the header and opened.  If nothing else, it is much clearer what needs to be fixed.  And, since most of the EAS is volunteer, it gives some impetous to make some changes in the relationship between mandated broadcasters and the feds.

    Audio from NPR shows that the "echo" and the looping may well have started at FEMA. There is some thought that the way EAN works is that when the header came around again, the receivers grabbed it and "overrode" the first test. That would explain the tones on top of the message.

    Some other audio from around the country (the calls may be
       

AND SO IT GOES!

     Reports from around the country indicate a lot of things need to be worked on.

        There were tones over audio, low level audio, echo, aborted audio, and more. Some stations only got the EAS tones and no audio. Others got six words and then silence.

      It appears that Oregon mostly did not get the EAN, those that got anything only got tones. This was also reported in Minnesota.

      However, here is the bright side: in most cases, the EAS boxes did receive and decode the EAN headers.  Perhaps it is time now to address the audio chain..... perhaps put some broadcasters on to it???

 


 

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