Nationwide Emergency Alert System (EAS) Test Introduction

Reply Tue 8 Nov, 2011 10:41 am
Nationwide EAS Test

Nationwide Emergency Alert System (EAS) Test Introduction
Nationwide EAS Test Reminders
Nationwide EAS Test Frequently Asked Questions
Other EAS Tests and Demonstrations
Nationwide EAS Test Information Materials

Nationwide Emergency Alert System (EAS) Test Introduction

FEMA, in coordination with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), will conduct the first nationwide Emergency Alert System (EAS) Test on November 9, at 2:00 p.m. Eastern.

FEMA, the FCC, and NOAA’s vision for improving the EAS is incremental, which means testing the readiness and effectiveness of the EAS as it currently exists today is the first step. A more effective and functional EAS requires continual testing to identify necessary improvements so that all levels of the system can better serve our communities and deliver critical information that will save lives and property.

EAS Participants provide a critical public service to the nation as the resilient backbone of alert and warning when all other means of communication are unavailable. EAS Participants include all broadcasters, satellite and digital radio and television, cable television and wireline video providers who ensure the system is at a constant state of readiness.

The nationwide EAS Test is not a pass or fail measure, nor will it specifically test Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) compliant equipment (although CAP compliant equipment should pass the Emergency Action Notification [EAN] live-code in the same manner as legacy EAS equipment).

FEMA and its federal partners understand that improving the EAS is a process that takes time. IPAWS has compiled experiential lessons learned and best practices from the Alaska EAS Tests in 2010 & 2011 as well as through the EAS rebuilding effort and tsunami live-code test in the U.S. Virgin Islands (located in the EAS Tests and Demonstrations section). Laboratory research is also being conducted at IPAWS.

IPAWS, in coordination with the FCC, is continually engaging the EAS Community through many activities, including information updates, workshops, roundtables, webinars, and on-site State and local EAS demonstrations to continue a solutions-oriented dialogue. IPAWS has also developed an external idea sharing website, A National Dialogue on the Emergency Alert System to discuss best practices and lessons learned from the EAS Community on a variety of topics that will support discussions during webinar and roundtable events.

The alert and warning landscape is in an important state of transition; from the current system of radio, television, cable, satellite, and wireline broadcast media-based alerting to a future system that integrates new technologies for a more universal access to alert and warning messages. Future testing of the EAS will assess the effectiveness and reliability of other technologies to achieve the ultimate goal of timely alert and warning to American public in the preservation of life and property.

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Nationwide EAS Test Reminders

An Emergency Action Notification (EAN) live-code will be used for the Test.
The test will last approximately 30 seconds.
The Washington D.C. FIPS code will be used for the Test.
An End of Message (EOM) will be used to close the EAN (an Emergency Action Termination will NOT be used).
You should have at least two monitoring sources (review your State EAS Plan).
NOAA Weather Radio will NOT carry the EAN- check with your SECC/LECC for monitoring sources.
The Test will NOT use a CAP message nor evaluate CAP compliance.
The National Weather Service is rescheduling their Required Weekly Test for Tuesday November 8th.
If you do not have a PEP source, you may be able to monitor your local National Public Radio member station (contact NPR Headquarters).
Properly configure your EAS Device (see the EAS Best Practices Guide in the handouts section and visit the EAS Device manufacturer website)

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Nationwide EAS Test Frequently Asked Questions

The national-level EAS leverages the communications support of all participating analog and digital radio, television, cable, satellite, and wireline providers (also known as EAS Participants) through specialized EAS equipment. A single, live-code alert, called the Emergency Action Notification, (EAN) is sent simultaneously to Primary Entry Point (PEP) stations across the country. PEP stations are designated to relay national alerts to the public and other stations in their coverage area. Local Primary (LP-1) EAS Participants monitor the PEP stations and other sources for an EAS message. Other EAS Participating stations also monitor at least two sources (in most cases the PEP and LP-1 stations) to receive the EAS message, and broadcast the message to the public in their area.

Has there ever been an activation of the national-level EAS?

Although the EAS is frequently used by State and local governments to send weather alerts and other emergencies, there has never been a national activation of the system. The purpose of the November 9, 2011 Test is to assess the readiness and effectiveness of the current system and identify incremental improvements to better serve our communities in the preservation of life and property.

Why test the national-level EAS?

FCC’s Part 11 Rules require EAS Participants to regularly test the system on a weekly and monthly basis, called required monthly and required weekly tests. Although the EAS has been in existence for over 15 years, a nationwide test of the system has never occurred. FEMA and federal partners are working with the EAS Community to assess if the national-level system will work as designed should officials ever need to send a national alert. A simultaneous test can provide an accurate picture of the current state of the system and the improvements necessary for a more reliable and resilient EAS.

Who will conduct a nationwide EAS Test?

The nationwide EAS Test will be conducted jointly by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Weather Service (NWS). The three federal partners have EAS management roles. FEMA is the lead agency in all operational and management functions of the EAS, developing national alert and warning capabilities, and integrating new technologies. The FCC is an independent agency that grants licenses, and presides over EAS rules and the rulemaking process, enforces rules, and handles test reporting data directly from EAS Participants. FCC rules regulate the transmission of EAS alerts. The NWS is a key player in the dissemination of local warnings via the EAS.

Will an Emergency Action Termination (EAT) message be used?

An EAT will not be used during the Test. An End of Message (EOM) will be sent to return the station to regular programming.

What FIPS code will be used during the Test?

For the Test, the Washington, D.C. FIPS code will be used. Most EAS devices forward the EAN with the DC FIPS code. FEMA only originates an EAN with the Washington, D.C. FIPS code.

Will FEMA and the FCC specifically test for Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) compliance?

The first nationwide EAS Test will not specifically test for CAP compliance, however CAP enabled EAS equipment should receive and relay the EAN in the same manner as legacy EAS equipment. Future tests of the EAS will incrementally integrate other technologies after we assess the current state of the system.

Will NOAA Weather Radio carry the Test?

NOAA Weather Radio will not transmit the EAS Test. There is currently no mechanism to transport this type of message to NWR transmitters. Additionally, the Test will use the EAN code where the audio message exceeds the two minute audio time limit allowed by Specific Area Messaging Encoding (SAME) and the EAS.

How can EAS Participants prepare for the Test?

FEMA and the FCC will work to provide equipment installation, operation, and configuration technical assistance, best practices, and a variety of other engagement activities with EAS participants to continue the dialogue of incremental improvements to the system. On June 9th, FEMA, the FCC and EAS Community Leaders and Experts participated in a virtual roundtable discussion on how to improve and prepare EAS Participants for the upcoming Test to support a best practice guide. FEMA and the FCC will continually improve the best practice guide in future roundtable and webinars and events (please see the Event Calendar for upcoming activities).

What will people hear and see during the Test?

During the test, listeners will hear a message indicating that “This is a test.” Although the EAS Test may resemble the periodic, monthly EAS tests that most Americans are already familiar with, there will be some differences in what viewers will see and hear. The audio message will be the same for all EAS Participants; however, due to limitations in the EAS, the video test message scroll may not be the same or indicate that “This is a test.” This is due to the use of the live EAN code – the same code that would be used in an actual emergency. The text at the top of the television screen may indicate that an “Emergency Action Notification has been issued.” This notification is used to disseminate a national alert and in this case, the test. In addition, the background image that appears on video screens during an alert may indicate that “This is a test,” but in some instances there might not be an image at all.

There are several limitations to the current EAS for individuals with access and functional needs. FEMA and the FCC are committed to providing organizations and the EAS community with information well in advance of the Test. FEMA and the FCC will further engage the EAS community to better understand the wide range of information and access needs in preparation for the national EAS. IPAWS has been performing outreach to access and functional needs organizations in several different forums, including working groups and roundtables led by the FEMA Office of Disability Integration and Coordination, with representation from multiple FEMA program offices, other Department of Homeland Security components, and other Federal Departments and Agencies.

How long will the Test last?

The test will last for approximately 30 seconds.

Why is the Test being conducted at this particular date and time?

The November 9 date is near the end of hurricane season and before the severe winter weather season. The 2 p.m. Eastern broadcast time will minimize disruption during rush hours, while ensuring that the test can occur during normal business hours across several time zones.

What is the source of FEMA’s and the FCC’s authority for conducting the Test?

FEMA administers the EAS and has the authority to ensure the conduct of training, tests, and exercises of the EAS by Executive Order 13407. FCC’s rules require that EAS Participants take part in nationwide tests of the EAS.

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Other EAS Tests and Demonstrations

IPAWS has conducted several EAS demonstrations and tests to learn more, share best practices and lessons learned with the EAS Community, and continually improve the system. IPAWS also developed a Test and Demonstration Center at the Joint Interoperability Test Command (JITC) laboratory that is open to all EAS Participants who would like to test equipment (contact [email protected] for more information).

Alaska 2010 & 2011 EAN Live Code Test

On January 6, 2010 an initial EAN live code message was delivered to the Alaska Primary Entry Point (PEP) station and relayed to Local Primary (LP1) stations and other participating broadcast, television, and cable stations across the State of Alaska. Close coordination and partnership between IPAWS, FEMA Region X, Alaska Broadcasters Association (ABA), and Alaska Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (ADHS) resulted in an overall successful test and established an important baseline for assessing the readiness and effectiveness of the EAS. Although the test proved the EAS worked as designed, several operational and technical issues were identified for mitigation. Additionally, IPAWS, the Alaska State government, and ABA learned that a more robust and elevated level of public awareness was required before the next Alaska EAS Test on January 26, 2011.

IPAWS continued to work with ABA and ADHS through EAS workshops during the 2010 ABA Annual Convention. The team listened to concerns, comments, and questions and discussed many technical solutions with EAS Participants in Alaska. Over the course of several months leading to the second Alaska EAS Test, IPAWS made improvements to origination procedures and conducted offline pre-tests at the IPAWS Test and Demonstration Center. IPAWS also took a proactive approach in coordinating EAS public awareness messaging with ABA leadership, who enlisted the help of Senator Lisa Murkowski for an effective Public Service Announcement before the 2011 Alaska EAS Test.

On January 26, 2011 at approximately 10 a.m. (AKST) an EAS message was sent to participating Alaska analog and digital radio, television, cable, and satellite providers. The second test revealed that the enhancements made in origination procedures were successful, a noticeable improvement from the previous year. With the strong support and assistance from the ABA and ADHS, the planning and lessons learned from both Alaska EAS Tests now serve as the model for the November 9, 2011 nationwide EAS Test.

U.S. Virgin Island Tsunami Live-Code EAS Demonstration- CARIBE WAVE 11/LANTEX 11 Exercise

IPAWS was invited by the U.S. Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency (VITEMA) to help rebuild the EAS and conduct a first-ever live-code demonstration as part of the March 23, 2011 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Weather Service (NWS) CARIBE WAVE 11/LANTEX 11 Exercise. IPAWS worked with VITEMA, the Virgin Islands (V.I.) Governor’s Office, and local broadcasters to rebuild and test the EAS. IPAWS also worked with the territory’s mass notification system, V.I. Alert, to send a CAP-based message through EAS equipment.

IPAWS coordinated public awareness with the V.I. government which resulted in a very successful information campaign with frequent communications in the form of VITEMA press releases, fact sheets, frequently asked questions, media interviews, social media tools, and a recurring radio PSA featuring V.I. Governor, John P. de Jongh, Jr.

On March 23, at approximately 9:02 a.m. AST, NOAA NWS originated a tsunami live-code message in San Juan, Puerto Rico to 33 participating Caribbean countries. The exercise simulated a widespread tsunami warning and watch situation throughout the Caribbean which required implementation of local tsunami response plans. Some of the observations noted in the tsunami-live code EAS demonstration involved challenges with localized signal reception and audio quality of the message. While some broadcasters received a clear signal and were able to broadcast the tsunami warning test message once it was received from NOAA, weak signals from the origination site and other technical challenges were further observed. VITEMA is currently working IPAWS and other federal agencies to continually improve the EAS and other alert and warning capabilities.

Future EAS Demonstrations

FEMA IPAWS is working with several Territorial, State, and local governments and EAS Participant organizations to conduct localized EAS demonstrations that range in scale. If you would like more information on how your area can voluntarily participate in EAS demonstration workshops, required monthly test activations, or virtual presentations to your communities, please contact [email protected].
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Reply Thu 10 Nov, 2011 09:39 am
National Alert System A Bust on First Try
By Rick Nathanson / Albuquerque Journal Staff Writer
Nov 10, 2011

If you thought the president of the United States would be able to instantly communicate with most Americans in case of an emergency, think again.

The first nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System experienced more than just a few “technical difficulties” — and many New Mexicans were among those left out.

The test, which was supposed to issue a 30-second alert simultaneously on all radio and television stations on Wednesday at noon Mountain time, was not delivered via any local TV or radio stations in New Mexico. Other parts of the country reported problems, as well.

“This is exactly why they did this test — to find out if the system worked — and it didn’t,” said Dan Slentz, chief of engineering at KOB-TV, Channel 4. “Even if the system didn’t operate as intended, the test worked, because it told us what we needed to know, which is the system needs some work.”

Some channels delivered to New Mexico homes via cable or satellite services did carry the emergency alert, though it’s not clear how many or which channels. Speaking from Comcast’s regional office in Denver, Cindy Parsons, vice president of communications, said she believes most homes within the New Mexico Comcast service area “saw the alert as intended.”

The digital message was to include “data burst” tones and encoded digital information to generate an audio message as well as a “crawl” for TV stations indicating “this is a test of the Emergency Alert System,” said Sean Anker, director of engineering at KRQE-TV and KASA-TV.

The test was conducted by the Federal Emergency Management Agency in partnership with the Federal Communications Commission and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Instead, some viewers saw uninterrupted programming, some saw a warning picture but no sound and there were reports that some viewers received a warning picture with a tape of Lady Gaga singing in the background.

FEMA on Wednesday posted a notice on its website saying, “We are currently collecting data about the initial results, and it will take the test’s participants several weeks to send us the full results.”

At least one station in the region, Denver’s KMGH-TV, the ABC affiliate, had its audio knocked out for two hours following the test, according to station general manager Byron Grandy. “We received the test message but couldn’t pass it along because the (digital) coding was bad. That, in turn, we think, caused hardware problems, which shut down the audio.”

Bill Harris, director of engineering for Cumulus Media in New Mexico and a member of the state Emergency Alert System committee, explained that company-owned KKOB-AM was one of 67 “primary entry points” around the country. The emergency alert, generated in Washington, D.C., was supposed to get transmitted to those points, which in turn would be relayed within seconds to all the other TV and radio stations.

Because the alert never arrived at KKOB-AM, “we were never able to transmit it,” Harris said.

Nick Piatek, spokesman for the New Mexico Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, said the failure likely occurred “at the origin of the message, not at the local levels.”

On the upside, the state Department of Homeland Security successfully completed a drill in which ham radio operators throughout the state helped disseminate an emergency alert, Piatek said.

In addition, Los Alamos National Laboratory conducted a successful in-house test in which 6,000 approved cell phones received an emergency alert text message, said lab spokeswoman Nancy Ambrosiano.
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