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.
Jerry Massey, CPBE, 8-VSB, AMD, DRB, CBNT
An SBE-sponsored email discussion group about the EAS
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.
April 18, 2013
Within the last week, the FCC released the document, "Strengthening the Emergency Alert System (EAS): Lessons Learned from the Nationwide EAS Test." This is basically the FCC's report card to the public on the results of the nationwide test, held on November 9, 2011.
The document summarizes the lessons learned from the test and the Bureau's recommendations for strengthening the EAS. While the overall tone of the document is one of praise, it does point out numerous areas that are not acceptable. The areas included:
The 19 page document closes with the FCC declaring the test a success, with several areas in need of improvement. It should also be noted that every station was required by the FCC to turn in the results of their test in a specified time frame. The commission did not mention any type of fine structure for those that did not turn in the results; however these fines can still be issued. If you did not submit your results, think of the old saying, "Better late, than never."
Here is a copy of the FCC report.
Scott Mason CPBE, CBNT is Director of Engineering, West Coast for CBS Radio and is a member of the national SBE Board of Directors.
Movie Trailer includes EAS Alert Tones
March 7, 2013 - This is an advisory that a new movie, Olympus Has Fallen, to be released on March 22, 2013, uses actual EAS tones in the movie trailer. If the trailer is used in radio or TV advertisements, the stations may be subject to FCC fine.
Click on the link to see the trailer. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TVZrlJQm1G4
EAS Device Hacked in Montana
I’m pretty sure by now you are all aware of the EAS device that was hacked in Montana. The broadcast community has done a good job letting station management know of this event. Many manufacturers and state broadcaster associations have already put out guidelines. Most of the suggested guidelines are simple. You may already know some of these things but we thought it a good idea to summarize them for those catching up on this.
Make sure you have changed all passwords, user and admin, to a strong password
This equipment should not be hanging out on the public Internet. It should be protected by a firewall and limit access via the Firewall
Regularly check your EAS units to assure your settings are where they are supposed to be
This may just be the beginning, now that nearly everything we do is digital and/or on the net. Make sure you’re transmitter and studio are protected.
Scott Mason, CPBE, CBNT, SBE EAS Education Committee Chairman
By Scott Mason, CPBE, CBNT, SBE EAS Education Committee Chairman
June 12, 2012
Sage Alerting Systems has posted a message on their site saying:
We plan to release the IPAWS support firmware before 1:00pm EDT today. This is, as always, subject to a little drift.
• This web site is a finite resource. If everyone tries to download at 1:00pm, it won't be pretty.
• Our support lines are a finite resource as well. If you need to call us, and you get voice mail, leave a message. Don't try to call back later, assuming we'll answer the phone then. Leave a message, and we'll return your call in the order we received it. Don't try the sales or business office extensions, they can't call support either if the lines are busy.
• Please read and follow the steps in the release notes carefully. If you haven't tried to add an IPAWS server by hand, and if your ENDEC is able to sync up to a network time source, the install will go very well. If you have tried to get the ENDEC to poll IPAWS by using instructions from a source other than Sage, you will have problems. Those CAP server entries, with things like "ipaws", or "http" or "https" followed by anything, won't work, and will result in a "CAP offline" message. If you can access your ENDEC, you might want to do a little prep work, remove those servers, and upload the settings before you upload the firmware. This is especially true if you used the ENDECSetd included in release 74-2, and built a CAP server with a type of "IPAWS OPEN" and an incorrect URL. Keep any server that is currently working for you, this includes any MyState server or GSS satellite server.
The other EAS encoder manufactures also have information available.
Scott Mason, CPBE, CBNT
Sample SECC Plan
May 21, 2012
The Broadcast Warning Working Group (BWWG) and invited stakeholders met during the 2012 NAB Show and held a State Emergency Communications Committee (SECC) plan writing workshop. The group produced a sample state plan document (v4.0) that is posted on the EAS FORUM website. If you have any questions or suggestions about the sample plan, contact the BWWG through their website, http://eas.radiolists.net.
Update on EAS Developments
By Scott Mason, CPBE, CBNT, SBE EAS Education Committee Chairman
March 26, 2012
Just when you thought it was a little quiet in EAS land, you see your tickler note that the FCC’s Fifth Report and Order becomes effective in less than a month. From most broadcasters I have spoken with or interviewed, it seems like we are pretty well buttoned up.
Let’s recap the highlights, or should I say highlight, CAP.
Alas, you do still have a little breathing room as the requirement to install the equipment isn’t effective until June 30.
The FCC needs to let broadcast stations know what the IP address of the concentrator they want stations to monitor. Broadcasters were told this IP address would be available many weeks ago. While most of us have had this equipment installed and working for a while now, it’s not really tested with CAP... I foresee numerous rounds of CAP testing once the concentrator IP addresses are released.
FCC Fifth Report & Order EB Docket 04-296
On January 10, 2012, the FCC released its Fifth Report and Order on EB Docket 04-296 regarding the Emergency Alert System. The report implements CAP into the EAS rules and revises the Part 11 Rules.
Gary Timm, an SBE member and consultant for Touchstone Consulting Group, published a list of highlights from the order in the Touchstone website newsletter, AWARE. They are reprinted here, with permission.
Click here for the complete EB 04-296 R&O.
November 10, 2011
Following the Nov. 9, 2011 national EAS test, it's obvious there were some problems. While some stations passed a complete test message, other stations did not. Though it appeared most broadcast station EAS equipment worked as expected, portions of the audio had problems nationwide.
Damon Penn, assistant administrator of National Continuity Programs at FEMA wrote the following on the FEMA Blog at 6:30 p.m. ET, four and a half hours after the test. "This nationwide test served the purpose for which it was intended - to identify gaps and generate a comprehensive set of data to help strengthen our ability to communicate during real emergencies. Based on preliminary data, media outlets in large portions of the country successfully received the test message, but it wasn't received by some viewers or listeners."
The SBE has noted the high volume of messages on its SBE Exchange - EAS discussion list, regarding the test. SBE EAS Education Chair, Scott Mason, CPBE, CBNT said, "The SBE will continue to provide educational support on EAS to our members and technical guidance to the FCC and FEMA, to provide a higher success rate for the future."
September 16, 2011
The FCC announced today that they have extended the deadline for broadcast stations to have their Emergency Alert System equipment be CAP compliant to June 30, 2012. The deadline had been set for September 30, 2011.
The FCC said, “In this Fourth Report and Order, we have revised the rules to extend the date by which EAS Participants must be able to receive CAP-formatted EAS alert to June 30, 2012.”
The FCC explained that more time is needed to revise Part 11 of the FCC Rules so that it cannot impose a deadline by which EAS participants must receive CAP-formatted alerts.
View the full text of the Fourth Report and Order.
July 31, 2011
FCC Rule changes are under way and many questions are being addressed through normal FCC processes. The FCC Released a Third Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on May 26, 2011 under EB Docket 04-296 which outlines ways that new requirements will be addressed and requests comment on the important issues surrounding the new EAS requirements. The SBE recommends station ownership and EAS stakeholders participate in this process. The SBE is working closely with FEMA and others to provide accurate and reliable EAS education and information for members and the industry to help foster compliance with the deadline whenever it occurs.
Comments on the NPRM were due to the FCC July 20, 2011, however reply comments can be filed until August 4, 2011. Submit comments using the FCC ECFS system. View previously filed comments on this docket here and enter proceeding number 04-296.
Please see the list of FAQs about the EAS below.
June 22, 2011
The FCC Third Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking was published in the Federal Register June 20, starting the clock for the Comment and Reply Comment Periods. Comments must be submitted by July 20, 2011 and Reply Comments are due by August 4, 2011.
June 9, 2011
PDF of notes from the roundtable provided by FEMA.
June 9, 2011
Rear Admiral James Barnett, Jr., Chief, Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau, Federal Communications Commission, today announced that the National Emergency Alert System (EAS) Test will take place November 9, 2011 at 2pm EST. The announcement was made during today's regularly scheduled FCC Meeting.
"With the date of the National EAS Test now set, broadcast stations will now be able to make their plans to participate. SBE will continue to provide information to our members to assist in their preparation," said SBE President, Vinny Lopez, CEV, CBNT.
February 4, 2011
The FCC released on February 3, a Third Report and Order amending FCC Part 11 rules governing the Emergency Alert System (EAS), to provide for national testing and the collection of data from those tests.
Elements of the FCC national test requirements include:
· Require all EAS Participants to participate in national EAS tests as scheduled by the Federal Communications Commission (Commission) in consultation with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA);
· Require that the first national EAS test use the Emergency Alert Notification (EAN), the live event code for nationwide Presidential alerts;
· Require that the national test replace the monthly and weekly EAS tests in the month and week in which it is held;
· Require the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau (Bureau) to provide at least two months’ public notice prior to any national test of the EAS;
· Require EAS Participants to submit test-related data to the Bureau within 45 days following a national EAS test;
· Require that test data received from EAS Participants be treated as presumptively confidential, but allow test data to be shared on a confidential basis with other Federal agencies and state governmental emergency management agencies that have confidentiality protection at least equal to that provided by the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA); and
· Delegate authority to the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau to determine, in
consultation with FEMA and with other EAS stakeholders, as appropriate, various administrative procedures for national tests, including location codes to be used and pre-test outreach.
Damon Penn, Assistant Administrator of the National Continuity Programs (NCP) Directorate, Federal Emergency Management Agency, when asked when he expected the first national test to take place, said, “this fall.” Penn was a panelist on a live EAS webinar sponsored by the National Alliance of State Broadcasters Associations and the NAB, held on February 3.
The complete Third Report and Order is available here.
November 24, 2010
The FCC has agreed with the SBE, NAB, MSTV and almost all state broadcaster associations that the 180-day EAS deadline should be extended. On November 28, 2010, the FCC announced that the deadline will be extended from 180 days to 360 days, effectively making the new deadline, September 30, 2011. The FCC action was officially taken on November 18.
SBE President, Vinny Lopez, CEV, CBNT, upon hearing the announcement said, "The FCC took an important step toward establishing an effective and orderly improvement of the US' public warning strategy. The SBE and its EAS-experienced members intend to work to support our industry and the FCC to improve the EAS. As the system changes, the SBE will be publishing information and education to help our members and the industry incorporate the changes in a cost-efficient and effective way."
The FCC considered multiple factors cited in industry filings in approving the extension, including the need for more time for the development, testing and potential certification of the new equipment and the costs associated with purchasing the CAP-compliant equipments by EAS participants.
July 31, 2011
On September 30, 2010, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced the adoption of major changes to the Emergency Alert System (EAS), incorporating a new digital messaging format, the Common Alerting Protocol (CAP). Broadcasters would have 180 days from the date of the announcement to comply with the new requirements, however, the FCC extended this another 180 days, for a new deadline of compliance of September 30, 2011.
The announcement has prompted many questions from our members. Some of the more frequently asked questions are addressed below.
Q1. What does this mean to me?
A. You have until September 30, 2011 to comply with these new standards. This will mean purchasing new equipment.
Q2. Why didn’t the SBE join the joint July 29, 2011 Industry filing with NAB, state broadcasters and others, asking for another extension of the CAP compliance deadline?
A. The SBE Board of Directors established a policy in October 2010 regarding its role in the Emergency Alert System that, going forward, the organization would refine its focus on educating our members about the changes to EAS and the implementation of those changes. The question of further extending the CAP compliance deadline is an important one; one that we feel is best led by those stakeholders who represent station ownership and management. The SBE will continue to communicate and provide educational opportunities to members about changes to EAS, directly and through our strategic alliances.
Q3. Has the compliance deadline "clock" started?
A. Yes. According to FEMA and the FCC, stations must be compliant with the NPRM on or before 9/30/2011.
Q4. What is THE MINUMUM required for stations to comply?
A. At the very minimum, stations must be able to receive and decode messages delivered using the CAP data protocol.
Q5. What is the RECOMMENDED way for stations to comply?
A. Stations should be prepared to incorporate emergency messages delivered by the CAP protocol into their EAS systems, logging and plans. Meaning that your EAS Box should either be capable of receiving and reacting to CAP messages, or there should be some device that can be added to your current EAS boxes to inject messages delivered using CAP into it; and the EAS Box should react appropriately.
Q6. How will that be done?
A. Stations will need to have a device or system capable of receiving messages using the CAP protocol. At this time most EAS equipment manufacturers can either provide or are in the process of developing devices to decode CAP; some even with the capability to incorporate the CAP messages into a station's EAS capabilities, although that integration is not part of this specific ruling.
Receiving CAP messages in your plant may simply be a matter of having a computer that can receive and decode the message. For example, The National Weather Service is currently using CAP and their messages can be decoded using the NWS' ATOM feed: http://www.weather.gov/alerts-beta/#cap
Q7. How is CAP different?
A. CAP messages can contain not just data, like the SAME protocol broadcasters are familiar with, but also audio, video, text...all sorts of information.
Q8. How will the changes affect the "duck quacks" (meaning the EAS SAME tones) stations are using now?
A. Nothing changes with what stations must send or even EAS....yet. In fact, we expect the current EAS system; the "daisy chain", will not be changed, but a separate, CAP-capable data distribution system will likely be added to your EAS plan.
There will need to be an approved "translation" of messages carried using extensive CAP protocol into the EAS SAME protocol "language". A digital Rosetta Stone, if you will. This is referred to as the CAP/EAS "profile" and has not been officially agreed upon.
Q9. From Where will stations get CAP messages?
A. This is one of the questions that have not been resolved. CAP messages will be delivered over a data path of some sort. Current indications are that the delivery method will use the public Internet in some way. This is actually one of the many unresolved issues and potential problems stations and state emergency officials will need to solve.
Current plans indicate that transmission from FEMA to broadcasters will be by means of the existing IPAWS (Integrated Public Alert and Warning System, http://www.fema.gov/emergency/ipaws/ ) SOAP interface using the IPAWS-OPEN (Open Platform for Emergency Networks, http://www.fema.gov/emergency/ipaws/projects.shtm#6) as an aggregator.
We understand that "IPAWS-OPEN" will be available for testing by a limited group of originators not later than February 28, 2011. There will be no accountability for IPAWS alerts to EAS. Originator credentials will be issued to organizations and shared among their staff. FEMA will be the issuer, but the procedure for issuing credentials is undefined at this time
Q10. What information is available about CAP?
A. Here's a really good wiki on CAP developments:
Q11. What about messages from the Governor?
A. The FCC Part 11 rules require state governors, or someone he or she designates, to be able to have his or her message aired on all participating stations. Most broadcasters understand that the purpose of EAS is, ultimately, to provide a means for the President to speak to the entire United States at once using the EAS as the means of delivery. Although the EAS has never been used for this purpose, that same capability is now required to allow governors to speak to the citizens of their states.
Q12. We can do that now, right?
A. Not exactly. Where this relates to the current change is that CAP provides the means where such a message can be sent. Remember CAP can carry audio and video messages as well as the text of a message. The rule confers a similar access to the airwaves to Governors, that was held only by the President. There are a whole host of issues that state emergency officials will need to address like security, authentication, distribution methods, etc.
Q13. What hasn't been determined yet?
A. An almost innumerable list of issues. Such as:
Q14. What do you suggest we do?
A. We recommend that you contact your equipment suppliers and familiarize yourself with the options available. Assuming your stations are in compliance with your state's EAS Plan, you should be planning to essentially add a new monitoring source... one that will include CAP emergency messages, to your current assignments. We expect the current EAS system - the "daisy chain", will not be changed, but a separate CAP-capable data distribution system will be added to your EAS plan.
If you decide to purchase equipment now, we advise that the equipment be field-upgradable by software, flash, or other means to comply with the many upcoming rule changes.
While we suggest you educate yourself and be cautious, we also suggest you avoid waiting until the last minute, or you will likely be facing the logistical problems caused by manufacturers that will be trying to supply new equipment to thousands of radio and television stations, cable and satellite head-ends, all at once. DO NOT ASSUME THE DEADLINE WILL BE EXTENDED AGAIN! Although there are groups seeking to extend the deadline until FCC Part 11 rules are changed and equipment can be certified to be in compliance, we feel it would be unwise to rely that an extension will be granted without fully understanding the circumstances and preparing an alternate, if temporary, method of complying with the current law.
Q15. When will the National EAS Test take place?
A. The National EAS Test will be held on November 9, 2011, at 2 p.m.
*** A FREE SBE webinar, originally presented on August 19, 2010 is available online. Click here for more details. A second SBE webinar about EAS developments will be held when more information is available.
If you have questions you'd like to see included in this FAQ and in upcoming webinars, please send your questions to: Ralph Beaver, SBE EAS Education Committee Chairman.
The SBE operates an ongoing conversation about EAS. Members and guests are invited to join the SBE EAS Exchange email discussion list. Also, EAS is one of many topics discussed on the SBE Roundtable. Information on joining either of these discussion groups is at www.sbe.org
April 20, 2010
The meeting was held at the 2010 NAB Show in Las Vegas, N.V. on Monday, April 12, 2010 at the Las Vegas Hilton Hotel
The Society of Broadcast Engineers hosted an interesting slate of technical presenters this year for its annual SBE EAS Meeting. SBE EAS Committee Chairman, Ralph Beaver opened the meeting and introduced SBE EAS Committee member, Gary Timm, who moderated the program. Gary's Meeting Outline and EAS/CAP Update.
The first session was titled: “Recent Developments in Alert Aggregation and Dissemination Technologies: How We Think it’s Really Going to Work” (may take 30 seconds or more to download). The session was presented by two engineers and a systems architect working with the FEMA IPAWS Program; Al Kenyon, Senior Technical Analyst, Rod Cash, Systems Engineer and Gary Ham, Eye Street Software Corporation. IPAWS, the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System, will be the vehicle for aggregating and disseminating messages for the new EAS CAP alerting system. This was an interesting insight into how that work is progressing. More information is available about the speakers, Al Kenyon, Rod Cash and Gary Ham.
The second session was presented by ECIG, the EAS-CAP Industry Group. ECIG is a broad coalition of equipment, software and service providers to the Emergency Alert System. This is an organization made up of most of the EAS/CAP equipment manufacturers. Members of the ECIG Board of Directors told us about their organization and its progress on drafting a CAP-to-EAS Implementation Guide as a recommendation to the FEMA IPAWS Program.
The closing session was an open discussion among the meeting attendees and all of the presenters.
April 14, 2010
According to a statement by DHS Assistant Administrator Damon Penn on April 14, 2010, FEMA estimates that its CAP adoption date, which would start the 180-day clock for broadcasters to buy CAP equipment, will be, "September of 2010”.
April 13, 2010
Click here to link to the FEMA website page that explains IPAWS.
April 1, 2009
This report is not endorsed nor the policy of the SBE. Provided for informational purposes only.
By Clay Freinwald November 24, 2008
In conjunction with an FCC EAS Summit in Washington, DC, in May of 2008, the Society of Broadcast Engineers (SBE) released a document titled, "A Strategy for Implementing CAP EAS". It outlined the steps that the SBE saw as needing to be accomplished in order to implement Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) for EAS. The SBE document divided the tasks among six proposed Working Groups (WG): EAS CAP Profile WG, EAS CAP Distribution Network WG, EAS CAP On-Air Presentation WG, EAS CAP Training WG, EAS CAP Equipment WG, and EAS CAP FCC Rules/FEMA Directives Study WG.
Shortly thereafter, this SBE document was adopted by a newly-formed group called the EAS CAP Roadmap Coordinating Committee, of which the SBE is a member. This group further refined the SBE document, now known as "The EAS CAP Roadmap", and is now moving forward with staffing the Working Groups and addressing the identified tasks. The following is current version of The EAS CAP Roadmap.
The SBE's suggestions to aid implementation of CAP technology for a revised Emergency Alert System
Now available are four podcast files that make up the SBE EAS Meeting held on Monday, April 16, 2007 in Las Vegas during the 2007NAB Show. Each file is large in size, and may take signifigant time to download. Additional information about the Common Alerting Protocol is available here.
Click this link to hear an archived recording of the SBE EAS Meeting. Our thanks to Broadcast.net, Tieline and Trilithic for their support which made the live streaming and archive of the meeting possible.