Latest National EAS Test Results Released

The Federal Communications Commission has released a public notice (here) reporting the results of the 2019 Nationwide Test of the Emergency Alert System, which took place August 7.  The notice indicates that more than 84% of radio broadcasters successfully received the National Periodic Test alert, and then 82.5% of those retransmitted the code, averaging slightly better than all of the EAS participants combined.

This annual test is intended to assess whether the EAS would perform as designed, an increasingly important question as some debate whether the current system is the best way to keep citizens informed in the smartphone age.

A total of 19,607 EAS participants spanning radio and television broadcasters, cable systems, Internet Protocol Television providers, wireline video systems and others reported they received the alert, and 15,986 then retransmitted it. Radio broadcasters make up the majority of EAS participants at 13,940, followed by the 2,717 television broadcasters and the 2,626 cable system providers.

The Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau noted that nearly half of those who reported receiving the alert said that they were monitoring three or more over-the-air sources at the time. Almost 70% of participants who filed Form Three indicated that there were “no complications” in receiving the test, but about 12% said there were issues with the test’s audio quality. Also, nearly 75% indicated there were no complications during the retransmission, although a small minority said they encountered “other” difficulties.

 




Updated: Required IPAWS Security Updates for EAS Units

This is an update to our article published last week in MAB News Briefs, to include information from another manufacturer as well as an FCC release on the required update.

Sage, DASDEC and Gorman-Redlich  have announced availability of required updates for their EAS boxes, which must be installed by November 8.

Sage announced October 30 that its long awaited ENDEC update (Rev95) that is necessary for the expiring digital certificate has been cleared for distribution. This is the controversial update that Sage is charging* users $349 for each ENDEC.  The upgrade became neccessary after FEMA announced changing the method used to connect to its IPAWS server, disabling an older method in favor of a new security standard. After the FEMA switchover, older versions of the ENDEC software will not be able to receive CAP messages from IPAWS. The update is available from Sage distributors.  For more information, visit Sage here.

*This update will be provided free of charge for ENDECs purchased new after March 1, 2018.

Digital Alert Systems has announced that the security update DASDEC devices is available for download and install.  Information and download is here.

Gorman-Redlich:  The Nov. 8 changes do not require a new E-prom. They have info on the website for updating the CAP program to handle the changes required on November 8 and the cost is 180 dollars.  Click here.

Larry Wilkins, CPBE, of the Alabama Broadcasters Assocation has made available a tutorial on the upgrade process for both Sage and DASDEC.  That tutorial is available here.

Can’t make the deadline?  The FCC has acknowledged that with the late roll-out of the updates, some broadcasters may find themselves unable to install the update by the November 8 deadline. The Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau will give an extra 60 days on the clock, meaning the updates need to be in place by Jan. 7, 2020.  However, this “extension” is using existing provisions with regard to EAS equipment that is out of service.  Broadcasters should install the updates at their earliest opportunity to remain capable of receiving CAP-formated alerts which which are distributed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency before they are relayed to the public. That validation process requires that a station’s equipment be configured so that any CAP-formatted alert that doesn’t include a valid digital signature is rejected. It does that by looking at the message received and the digital signature created by the certificate included in the alert. The equipment checks to be sure the certificate matches one of the trusted sources stored in the EAS unit.  Read the FCC release here.  HOWEVER:  The lack of a current digital certificate does not affect the over-the-air relay of alerts.  Just the ability of EAS equipment to receive alerts through IPAWS.

The pressing issue has come into play since FEMA said one of the certificates it has issued for the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS), that has been installed in all EAS devices, is set to expire November 8.




Sage/DASDEC Required Updates Now Available – Install by November 8

THIS ARTICLE HAS BEEN UPDATE:  SEE HERE

Both Sage and DASDEC have announced availability of required updates for their EAS boxes, which must be installed by November 8.

Sage announced October 30 that its long awaited ENDEC update (Rev95) that is necessary for the expiring digital certificate has been cleared for distribution. This is the controversial update that Sage is charging* users $349 for each ENDEC.  The upgrade became neccessary after FEMA announced a changing the method used to connect to its IPAWS server, disabling an older method in favor of a new security standard. After the FEMA switchover, older versions of the ENDEC software will not be able to receive CAP messages from IPAWS. The update is available from Sage distributors.  For more information, visit Sage here.

*This update will be provided free of charge for ENDECs purchased new after March 1, 2018.

Digital Alert Systems has announced that the security update DASDEC devices is available for download and install.  Information and download is here.

Larry Wilkins, CPBE, of the Alabama Broadcasters Assocation has made available a tutorial on the upgrade process for both Sage and DASDEC.  That tutorial is available here.




Mixed Results on National EAS Test

Last week’s National Periodic Test (NPT) of the Emergency Alert System drew mixed results from around the country.  This was the first test that completely relied on the daisy-chain approach and not IPAWS/Internet delivery of the test.  Barry Mishkind’s BDR Newsletter reported:

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.

Here in Michigan, MAB’s own survey after the test reported audio issues from some stations.  Somewhat distorted audio came from those (and those downstream) who received the audio via NPR’s Squawk Channel.  Others reported that as the alert passed through the daisy chain, the opening tones were repeated with each pass.  Several stations had equipment issues.

With regard to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, as mentioned above, it appears the test was received in the Eastern UP, but most of the Central and Western UP did not receive.  The MAB was able to quickly identify the cause of the issue and it has since been resolved.  However in dissecting the daisy chain path, it became obvious that an alternate path to the Upper Peninsula needs to be formulated and several solutions are being discussed.

The BDR Newsletter also reports that some stations reported problems with the FCC’s ETRS site, where they were unable to file Form Two, receiving 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.  Form Two was due by Midnight the day of the test (August 8).  Form Three is due on or before September 23, 2019.




SBE Releases EAS 2019 National Periodic Test Final Checklist

By: Larry Wilkins, CPBE, CBNT, AMD
Chair, SBE EAS Advisory Group

As the 2019 National EAS Test, commonly called the National Periodic Test (NPT), approaches, there are several steps broadcasters should take to ensure they are prepared on August 7.

FEMA will transmit the test via the Primary Entry Point (PEP) system. It will not be available on the IPAWS CAP system. The NPT will be issued at 2:20 p.m. EDT Wednesday, August 7, 2019.

By now all EAS participants should have checked their EAS units to ensure that they are programmed and working properly. If you haven’t, now is the time to do so. Key items to check:

1. Verify your EAS equipment is running the required software version (contact your equipment vendor if you have questions).
2. Verify you are monitoring the correct legacy EAS monitor sources as outlined in your state EAS plan.
3. Verify the audio from both required sources is broadcast quality.
4. Verify the system clock is correct and synced to a national time server (check the time zone setting as well).
5. TV stations, verify that the video display (character generator) will output the EAS crawl, with appropriate visibility (e.g. color contrast) and display speed that a normal human can read.
6. Be prepared to file ETRS Form Two by midnight on August 7.

Contact your state emergency communications committee (SECC) or state broadcaster association with any questions about the NPT requirements.




Are You Set for August 7?

Although the MAB has advised its members in Michigan, FEMA and the FCC issued a joint release on July 24, regarding the nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System (EAS) on Wednesday, August 7, 2019 at 2:20 p.m. Eastern Time.  The nationwide test will be sent to radio and television stations through FEMA’s Integrated Public Alert and Warning System and will originate through Primary Entry Point (PEP) stations.

This year’s test will evaluate the readiness of the national alerting capability in the absence of internet connectivity. The test will be approximately one minute long, have a limited impact on the public with only minor interruption of radio and television programs, and will be similar to regular monthly EAS tests. Both the audio message and text crawl should be accessible to people with disabilities.

The release notes that all other radio and television stations, cable, wireline service providers, and direct broadcast satellite service providers should subsequently receive and broadcast the test message.

The test will not include a message on cell phones via Wireless Emergency Alerts.

EAS participants should have already filled out the required Form One on the ERTS website.  Stations will be required to fill out the post-test Form Two before midnight the day of the test.  On or before September 23, 2019, EAS Participants must file the detailed post-test data sought by ETRS Form Three, though many participants fill out both Form Two and Three at the same time.

In the event the August 7 test is postponed, the secondary date is Wednesday, August 21, 2019.  If you have any questions, please contact Dan Kelley at the MAB: [email protected] or 800.968.7622.




Sage Announces Mandatory Software Upgrade

Sage has released firmware version 89-34 for its line of ENDECs. This free update addresses a changed requirement in the FCC EAS rules, Part 11.33(a)(10), which affects how the valid time frame of an alert is determined. This rule change takes effect on August 12, 2019. The ENDEC currently employs a slightly different method of determining the valid time frame. The update will have no adverse effect on the reception and relay of valid alerts. All users must install this update.

NOTE: This release does not affect the ENDEC’s reception and relay of the scheduled August 7, 2019 National Periodic Test. Whether your ENDEC is running version 89-30, 89-32, or this new version 89-34, your ENDEC will relay the NPT.

See https://www.sagealertingsystems.com/support-firmware-new.htm for details on this update.

Sage also plans a major version release in September. As is typical with data security, old methods are discarded in favor of new, more secure methods. FEMA will be making a change to the method used to connect to its IPAWS server, disabling an older method in favor of the new standard. Our September release will support that change. After the FEMA switchover, older versions of the ENDEC software will not be able to receive CAP messages from IPAWS. In addition, the September release will focus on features our users have asked for, including the ability to preferentially send the CAP version of EAS messages for most alerts, role-based logins, enhanced automation interfaces (IP and GPIO), day parts, activity logging, emailed summary logs and more. This release will be mandatory.

While Sage has made updates available at no charge since the original 2008 release of the Model 3644 ENDEC, there will be a one-time charge of $349 for the September release. The release will only be sold through Sage distributors. This update will be provided free of charge for ENDECs purchased new after March 1, 2018 (eighteen months prior to September 2019). Sage will send out an email when that release is available.

If you have any questions regarding these updates, please email [email protected] or call 914-872-4069 and press 1 for support. If you get voice mail, please leave a message and Sage will return your call.




EAS Required Monthly Tests Cancelled for August, 2019 Due to National Test

With the Nationwide EAS Test scheduled for August 7, 2019, State EAS/SECC Chairman Gary Blievernicht has announced that all scheduled regional Required Monthly Tests (RMTs) scheduled for the month of August should be cancelled.  47 CFR 11.61(3)(ii) states, “A national test shall replace the required weekly and monthly tests for all EAS participants … in the week and month in which it occurs.”

So, for the week of August 5-11, stations do not have to run a Required Weekly Test (or RMT if one was scheduled in your particular EAS region).

EAS participants should also note that if there is a RMT scheduled later in the month in their region, they need to replace that RMT in that week with a weekly test.

If you have any questions, contact Dan Kelley at the MAB.




FEMA, FCC to Host July 9 Meeting on Nationwide EAS Test

As you may know, FEMA has scheduled a nationwide Emergency Alert System (EAS) test for Wednesday, August 7,  at 2:20 p.m. EDT.

To prepare for that test, the FCC and FEMA will host a meeting for EAS stakeholders (including EAS participants, EAS equipment vendors, and public safety organizations) to discuss topics such as goals, technical elements, and expectations for the upcoming test.

The meeting will be held Tuesday, July 9, at 2:00 p.m. EDT.  Those interested can attend in person in Washington* or by telephone.

A complete agenda with telephone information is available here.

*Those who wish to attend in person are asked to RSVP by July 8 to secure a seat:  [email protected].




FCC EAS Webinar for Low Power Broadcasters Announced

The FCC has announced that it will present a free webinar on July 11 from 1 to 1:45 p.m. EDT for low power broadcasters. The webinar will include an overview of the EAS and instructions on how low powered radio and television stations can register and file in the EAS Test Reporting System (ETRS). No pre-registration is required.  Login instructions are available in this release from the FCC:  click here.

For additional details, contact Maureen Bizhko at [email protected].