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The Emergency Alert System

EAS – CAP – IPAWS – FEMA
Information

The idea is to bring some clarity to the issues and answer your questions. Definitions and
a fair amount of historical info is below

(Last update 6/15/21)

6/16/21 – A few changes this year, as we lead up to NPT 2021. Dave Kline covers the key points, including a good checklist for your facility. If you updated for the certificate change last year, you should be in good position to receive and relay the NPT.



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9/9/19 – The FCC continues to show it is serious about misusing EAS tones or simulated tones. It has proposed an NALF for $272,000 fine against CBS Broadcasting for misusing the EAS tones. This was in an episode of Young Sheldon on 15 O&O stations, plus 212 others on April 12, 2018. The tones were modified, but the FCC contends it still resembled actual EAS tones.

8/15/19 – The FCC released a Public Notice and a list of settlements (totaling $634,000) from the Enforcement Bureau for misuse/abuse of the EAS (and WEA) tones. The settlements range from broadcast television (ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live! – $395,000) and radio (KDAY/KDEY – $67,000) 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.

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.

Often when filing the reports, 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


THE 2021 NATIONAL EAS TEST

The FCC and the FEMA have announced that the 2021 NPT will be on August 11th at 2:20 PM EDT. (A “rain” date is set for August 25) 

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.
2. The 2021 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 12, 2021
5. The detailed post-test data ETRS Form Three must be filed on or before September 26, 2021.


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: What changes are happening in recent years?

    A: A few things have changed over the years, with more on the way.
    1. the code for the National Test was set at 000000.
    2. the FCC now requires stations to report false messages within 24 hours.
    3. to remove EAS alerts from politics a bit, the “Presidential Alert” has been renamed “National Alert.”
    4. CMAS has been renamed WEA.
    5. Additional changes are being planned for the SECCs, and uploading current state plans.

  • 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: 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


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.

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.


 

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