The U.S. government created the Emergency Alert System (EAS) to be a means for the President to communicate with the public in times of a national emergency. The EAS is also used locally by broadcasters and others to inform citizens of local or regional emergencies including those that are weather related. Many members of the SBE have responsibilities to maintain EAS equipment at their stations. Through the SBE EAS Education Committee, the SBE seeks to provide information to our members that will help them implement, maintain and operate the EAS systems they are responsible for. The SBE also serves as a resource of expertise to the broadcasting community and the FCC on EAS-related matters.
An SBE-sponsored email discussion group about the EAS
For more EAS background information, access the SBE EAS archive.
Preparing For the September 2017 National EAS Test
August 18, 2017
By Larry Wilkins, CPBE, chair, SBE EAS Advisory Group
All engineers should be aware by now that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has scheduled the 2017 national EAS test for Wednesday, Sept. 27 at 2:20 p.m. ET. This test will be originated and distributed via IPAWS only; the same manner as the 2016 National Test. The test will be sent with the event code NPT for National Periodic Test. All stations are expected to receive the NPT message from IPAWS or off-air and then to relay the NPT message on-air using their normal studio EAS equipment. The message will be sent with both English and Spanish language text and audio. EAS participants must complete ETRS Form One by Aug. 28, 2017. MORE
2017 National EAS Test Procedures, Reporting System and Related Deadlines
July 27, 2017
As the SBE previously announced, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), in collaboration with the FCC, will conduct a nationwide test of the EAS on Sept. 27, 2017, at 2:20 p.m. EDT. The SBE Advisory Committee collected step-by-step information to help SBE members and stations prepare for the upcoming test. MORE
FCC Seeks Comments on Blue Alert EAS Event Codes
June 29 , 2017
By the SBE EAS Advisory Group
Larry Wilkins, CPBE, chair
In May 2015, President Barack Obama signed into law legislation that created a new kind of public emergency notification: the Blue Alert. It’s similar to the well-known Amber Alert for abducted children, but is meant to help catch people who credibly threaten or actually harm law enforcement officials. Presently a number of states have created a Blue Alert that is designed to go only via email, social media and/or website. The FCC is considering creating a designated Blue Alert event code, that according to the DOJ would “facilitate and streamline the adoption of new Blue Alert plans throughout the nation and would help to integrate existing plans into a coordinated national framework.” The Commission will accept public comment on the proposed Blue Alert plan for 60 days. MORE
SBE EAS Advisory Group Publishes EAS Security Notes
April 10, 2017
Intrusions into computerized equipment have been around since the internet became a reality years ago. It is no surprise to broadcast engineers that these invasions have made their way into radio and television stations.
Most recently, EAS devices have been a major target. To comply with FCC rules, these devices must have internet access to receive information from FEMA via IPAWS.
Security for EAS and other station devices should be a high priority for station engineers. As a result, the SBE EAS Advisory group has put together a basic security guidelines summary to aid stations in assuring that all equipment is protected from these outside intrusions.
The Society of Broadcast Engineers Forms EAS Advisory Group
January 20, 2017
The Society of Broadcast Engineers has actively worked as a source of information for the Emergency Alert System since it was launched. As the system has developed and evolved to include new technologies and alerting partners, so has the SBE adapted to be the most effective and thorough resource for broadcasters to use to implement their EAS efforts.
As part of this evolution, SBE President Jerry Massey, CPBE, 8-VSB, AMD, DRB, CBNT, authorized the formation of the SBE EAS Advisory Group. The purpose of the group is to stay abreast of developments regarding EAS that will affect SBE members, including changes in federal regulations, policy and technology, and communicate pertinent developments to appropriate SBE national leadership and staff.
The group’s member’s are:
Larry Wilkins, CPBE, AMD, CBNT (group chair)
Ed Czarnecki (Monroe Electronics/Digital Alert Systems)
Harold Price (Sage Alerting Systems)
The group members were chosen to yield insight from the two SBE national committees that are involved with EAS issues, SBE members who are heavily involved with EAS, and SBE sustaining members that manufacture EAS equipment. The group reports to Wayne Pecena, CPBE, 8-VSB, AMD, DRB, CBNE, the chair of the SBE Education Committee, and Joe Snelson, CPBE, 8-VSB, the chair of the SBE Government Relations Committee.
On the announcement of the group’s formation, SBE President Jerry Massey said, “The SBE has worked with the various EAS partners, from stations to manufacturers to legislators, to be the trusted source of EAS information. The SBE EAS Advisory Group continues the effort that was begun by previous SBE committees.”
Larry Wilkins, the group chair, added, “Going forward, one focus of the group will be to field reports concerning origination or distribution problems from broadcast stations and state emergency communications committees (SECC). Using the expertise of the committee members along with information from our contacts with the FCC and FEMA, a recommended solution can be issued to the industry.”
Initial Findings of the 2016 EAS Nationwide Test
January 3, 2017
At the end of December, the FCC released an initial overview of the nationwide EAS test results and highlighted several opportunities for strengthening the EAS. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), in coordination with the Federal Communications Commission (Commission) and the National Weather Service (NWS), conducted a nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System (EAS) at 2:20 p.m. EDT on Sept. 28, 2016. The nationwide test was designed to assess the reliability and effectiveness of the EAS, with a particular emphasis on testing FEMA’s Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS), the integrated gateway through which common alerting protocol-based (CAP-based) EAS alerts are disseminated to EAS Participants.
The test also provided the Commission an opportunity to evaluate improvements made to the EAS since the 2011 nationwide EAS test and to improve its ability to monitor the performance of EAS Participants during nationwide EAS tests. At the direction of the Commission, the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau launched the EAS Test Reporting System (ETRS), an electronic filing system and related database, on June 27, 2016. Using ETRS for the first time, EAS Participants nationwide registered accounts and submitted identifying information regarding their participation in the EAS. In the hours following the nationwide test, EAS Participants submitted “day of test” results that indicated whether they successfully received and retransmitted the test alert. EAS Participants submitted detailed analyses in the weeks following the test that specified how they received the alert and identified any complications they experienced during the test.
The FCC reports that the Nationwide EAS Test was successful. Initial test data indicates that the vast majority of EAS participants successfully received and retransmitted the National Periodic Test (NPT) code that was used for the test. The improvements made to the EAS using the lessons learned from the 2011 nationwide EAS test and the implementation of the ETRS appear to have significantly improved test performance over what was observed during the 2011 test.
From the data submitted by EAS participants to the ETRS, several steps have been identified where the Commission could strengthen the EAS. These improvements address problems with poor audio quality, inability to deliver the Spanish alert because of receive timing between the over-the-air test and the IPAWS CAP alert, better access to alerts for people with disabilities, shortcomings in some state EAS plans, improperly configured station equipment, and potential improvements in cybersecurity of the EAS.