EIIP Virtual Forum Presentation — June 8, 2011

The Emergency Alert System
Preparations for the National Test

Manuel (Manny) Centeno
Program Manager, Project Manager for EAS National Test
FEMA Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) Program

Amy Sebring
EIIP Moderator

The following has been prepared from a transcription of the recording. For ease of printing, the complete slide set (Adobe PDF) may be downloaded from http://www.emforum.org/vforum/FEMA/nationalEAStest.pdf.

[Welcome / Introduction]

Amy Sebring: Good morning/afternoon everyone and welcome once again to EMForum.org. I am Amy Sebring and will serve as your Moderator today. We are very glad you could join us. For our newcomers, we will be providing some instructions as we go along so you can relax and participate with us.

You may be aware that plans are underway for a national test of the Emergency Alert System (EAS). Two previous tests of a presidential message using live codes were conducted in the state of Alaska during January 2010 and 2011 and lessons gathered from that experience. Although the date for the national test has not been set yet, planning has begun.

[Note: On June 9, FEMA issued a press release announcing the date of November 9, 2011 for the national EAS test. See http://www.fema.gov/news/newsrelease.fema?id=55722]

An online "National Dialogue" on EAS has been underway for the past couple of weeks to identify those areas of the EAS system needing improvement.

[Slide 1]

Now it is my pleasure to introduce today’s guest: Manuel (Manny) Centeno is a program manager for FEMA’s Integrated Public Alert and Warning System program within the National Continuity Programs Directorate. He is the project manager for the National EAS Test, and has successfully planned and conducted the two tests in Alaska, and a tsunami warning demonstration in the U.S. Virgin Islands (V.I.).

Manny is a former Emergency Service Coordinator (ESC) with the Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency (VITEMA), and has worked in the broadcast industry for 27 years as a broadcast engineer and manager. Again, please see today’s Background Page for further biographical information.

Welcome Manny, and thank you very much for taking the time to be with us today. I now turn the floor over to you to start us off please.


Manny Centeno: Thank you, Amy. Good afternoon, everyone, and good morning if you are on the west coast especially. Thank you for having me today. We are going to be discussing the Emergency Alert System and the Emergency Alert System national test we will be conducting later this year. We will also be discussing the importance of testing the EAS at the national, but also the state and local levels where it is used most.

The test activities and accomplishments to date—the EAS test in Alaska that we conducted—both tests and the demonstrations we have done in the Virgin Islands and we are also about to do some of that work in Puerto Rico as well. We have had some outreach and lessons learned. We have been learning throughout this entire process.

We have been gathering technical and operational observations and we have been documenting those. We have identified some mitigation strategies and we need to hear from you so we can get more of that information and better form educational materials for the EAS community.

[Slide 2]

We have some information. We are going to review some of those findings with you today and let you know what our next steps are and how you can participate in the entire process.

[Slide 3]

I want to give you a little bit of background on the Emergency Alert System. The EAS was established in 1994 as a replacement for the EBS (the Emergency Broadcast System), that most of you will recall. The FCC began enforcing EAS rules in 1997.

We feel here at FEMA, and pretty much with all of our federal partners including the Federal Communications Commission that the EAS is the backbone of alert and warning. It reaches more people in more places from a single alert origination.

It is also very valuable in rural communities and communities that don’t have many other means to receive emergency communications. The EAS is extremely resilient. It relies on independent outlets, whether they are television, cable or radio. Many of these remain on the air even after a disaster.

We feel the EAS must remain in a state of readiness at all times. NOAA Weather Radio, territorial, state, and local governments use the EAS very regularly—some more than others, but especially NOAA uses the EAS through the SAME through the NOAA Weather Radio System to disseminate weather information.

This national test that will be conducted later this year will also exercise the pathways used by NOAA, the territories, the states, and the local governments. Although it is a national test using a national code, it will also exercise the networks in the rest of the country, of course, if those networks are up and running.

We will not be testing the Common Alerting Protocol this year during the national test. We want to make sure that everyone understands that we don’t expect that to be fully working by the end of this year to test it. We’ll see what happens after we get there.

[Slide 4]

I want to also make a comment that EAS is not the only tool in the alert and warning toolbox, nor is that our thinking. There are other things that FEMA and its federal partners are working on, such as alerting over cell phones, desktop alerts, sirens, and etcetera, all that will leverage Common Alerting Protocol.

However, we believe the EAS is one of the easiest to use, and it is accessible and resilient. It is very simple to use it. A lot of people ask, especially in the emergency management community—why use it? We feel that a single alert message used in EAS can reach millions. Not everyone is watching television or listening to the radio at all times.

However, in most disasters and events, people do turn to the radio—especially drive time, morning time, afternoon, when people are watching network television—that is a good time. When an EAS is shown then it is of real value.

The EAS has proven its resiliency as many participants continue to operate their system of EAS. We have learned over the last couple of years that most EAS participants are eager to support local, state, and federal authorities in disseminating alerts using EAS. Many are concerned that some state and county authorities do not understand how this important tool works, so they do not leverage it. We are going to talk about that.

FEMA IPAWS is working with several states and territories right now to establish and improve the EAS in those areas. We are doing that as a model so we can go to other states, territories and areas to help them with their EAS.

[Slide 5]

Let’s talk a little bit about EAS and there’s a basic diagram we are presenting here. If you look at the top left of the diagram you see EAS/CAP IP based—that is the future state of EAS. That will be leveraging the Common Alerting Protocol, the internet and other IP based networks.

Below that, you see EAS RF based—that could be telephone based and many other ways to get there. An emergency manager could contact their state primary, for example, and tell them to issue and EAS on their behalf.

There are many ways to do this, but this is what we have recommended to some of the jurisdictions we have presented to and we are partnering with to get their EAS going—an RF based system that could be backed up by telephone or satellite, or over the internet, so they can reach the EAS over the EAS participant base, which is mainly broadcasters.

If you look within the dotted line, you will see EAS participants’ station—that could be radio, television, cable—we’ve simplified and rolled it into one there. You see the other sources of alerts. It could be NOAA—you see radio receivers there so that these participants can receive multiple messages from multiple stations.

That helps eliminate single points of failure, which is something we hope the Common Alerting Protocol will help with in the future. If you don’t get it over the internet, you should be able to get it from the other stations you are monitoring through your monitoring assignments. We’ll talk about state plans and monitoring assignments later in the presentation.

[Slide 6]

A question we are asked a lot is why we are doing this test of the EAS. It has never been done before at this level and magnitude. EAS participants are required by the FCC to do weekly and monthly tests, and that is done at a localized level per EAS participant station. Some states do choreograph or plan monthly EAS tests. We believe that is the way to go at a state level to test their state level EAS.

We are doing it at the national level to assess the readiness and effectiveness of the EAS from origination to reception by the public. That is top to bottom, end to end. We are going to be assessing real world EAS distribution networks and monitoring assignments. We are also going to be looking at monitoring assignments and doing some sampling when we do the national test later this year to find out how close those monitoring assignments come to reality.

We are looking at transmission issues, FCC rules, equipment interoperability and functionality—we are looking at just about everything we can look at—public reaction, the type of messages we are sending out (are they effective?), and seeking that kind of feedback from the emergency management community, the EAS participant community, but also the public.

What we are doing is establishing a comprehensive baseline so we can better prepare and execute future tests—both the traditional EAS we have, and the future EAS leveraging Common Alerting Protocol.

We also want to establish effective mitigation approaches to improve the EAS. We started that already with what we have learned in the test in Alaska and the work we’ve done in the Virgin Islands and other areas as we continue. We are already creating a body of information and documentation that will help the community identify what those problems are and most importantly, find solutions.

In all of this, we have had to implement and assess EAS participant, industry, state and local government, and public outreach and engagement activities. This is a very big project and I know we haven’t been talking intimately about it with the state and counties just yet. We are very close to announcing the date of the test and we are in earnest starting our efforts in those areas.

We have been doing outreach to the EAS participant community, mainly the broadcasters who have the equipment and the systems in their facilities, and will be the ones to receive and relay that message. We will be reaching out to state, counties and territories about the EAS test. I want to reiterate that we are not going to incorporate CAP capabilities in this test. That is not something we are doing this year. That would be a bit unrealistic to do.

[Slide 7]

What have we done already? We have drafted a comprehensive test and assessment plan to provide guidance during the execution of the test. We continue to upgrade and update that plan with our federal partners and those that are intimately involved with the execution of a national level EAS message.

We continue to improve the origination procedures and the messaging we are going to put in that EAS message later this year, and we are testing those procedures. We have conducted two EAS tests, as Amy mentioned, using a live code emergency action notification. That was in January of 2010 and January of 2011.

The emergency action notification live code has never been used nationally, so we used it for the first time in a coordinated test in Alaska. There have been some erroneous and accidental activations in the past, but you can’t really document an accidental activation. We need to do this to see if the code works and make sure we can mitigate any issues we find.

We conducted significant participant outreach in Alaska and the Virgin Islands. We included important partners—the state level Department of Homeland Security in Alaska, the folks from the primary entry point station, the Alaska Broadcasters Association, in the Virgin Islands it is the Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency, the office of the Governor, etcetera.

This is kind of a model of what we will be doing throughout the country as we spread the message out and continue talking to you. The broadcast community, the state emergency management community, the state emergency communications committees and chairs—that entire group is extremely important to this conversation and the planning of the EAS test. You will be hearing more from us if you are in those communities.

What we found everywhere we have gone, not only in Alaska, but in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands and folks we’re talking to in other states, is that they are very enthusiastic about their support. We are seeing that over and over. There are people who don’t believe this is necessary and that’s okay. We respect that opinion. However, the majority of folks want to see a working EAS and that is the purpose of all of this.

We did a lot of outreach activity in Alaska and the Virgin Islands. We released PSAs, responded to media requests, conducted interviews, and assisted of drafting of news releases at their level, and what we’ve done is learned how to conduct this test by using these two locations as model to spread throughout the United States. They will not be identical but we have learned a lot as we go.

We are preparing and developing technical, configuration and preparation instructions for participants so they can set up these devices properly. The biggest issue we have found overall is at the local station level where the equipment has been sitting for a very long time. If the system is not exercised or tested frequently in an organized fashion from an originator outside of that EAS station, they don’t know if they can receive or relay a message.

It is very difficult for those folks to know if their system is working, even if they do weekly or monthly tests from the station. We are going to be publishing this information very soon to the participants so that they are aware.

[Slide 8]

One of the findings we had on January 26, 2011 in Alaska was that more stations transmitted the EAS test message this year than last year. This tells us that the EAS can be improved when properly tested and exercise. We’ll get into some of those mitigation elements later in the presentation.

We proved that the EAS can be updated and fixed. We saw in the Virgin Islands that you can go from zero to something in a very short time, where stations had the equipment but the territorial government was not necessarily originating alerts. We went from them not doing that, to them testing it for the first time. It worked. We went from zero to sixty in very little time. Now they have the beginnings of a viable EAS in that area.

This can be done. That is our message—we can get this done. Another accomplishment is we have established a strong baseline for more effective preparation and execution of a national test. We have learned a lot in the last year or two since we’ve started talking about doing this.

We have seen increased cooperation of partnership with state governments, EAS participants, and manufacturers of equipment in the EAS state. We have seen more robust pre-test exercises. We have done those. We have had quite a few dry runs. That better informs EAS participants as well. The more you practice, the better you get.

We have conducted numerous EAS outreach and mini-workshops and workshops for EAS participants. We did a few of those at the National Association of Broadcasters convention this year. We have visited numerous states so far and been to broadcaster association meetings, Society of Broadcast Engineers. Some of those states include Michigan—we’re going to be in Nevada next week and New Jersey the week after.

Of course, we did the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and Alaska. We are starting to get that list populated and visiting those folks so we can engage with them to create a better EAS and prepare for the test.

[Slide 9]

This is an example of the cooperation we have seen in the state of Alaska. The Alaska Broadcasters Association and the State Division of Homeland Security were able to recruit the help of U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski. I’m not sure we’re going to do a lot of this type of PSA nationally, however there is a lot of support for this type of event.

There is a lot of support for the EAS. I wanted to show you this thirty second clip with Senator Murkowski informing the public of the EAS test this year in Alaska and asking them to participate and provide feedback to the State of Alaska Emergency Management Agency.

[Video Clip]

There will be similar campaigns for the national test that will be conducted later this year. It may not have Senator Murkowski, but we plan to go out to the public with this information so they are not alarmed when they get this message and your 911 call centers are not inundated with calls with folks that are unduly concerned.

There will be a public outreach campaign with the national test in addition to the outreach and education we are conducting with you and other EAS participants.

[Slide 10]

Let’s get a little about some of the other stuff we have done in addition to Alaska. On March 23 of this year, the Virgin Islands conducted a tsunami exercise. Interestingly, this happened just after the Japan disaster, but this was already planned. It was called LANTEX 11/CARIBE WAVE 2011. It simulated a widespread tsunami warning through the Caribbean basin, which required the origination of a local tsunami alert and of course, the activation of response, etcetera. It simulated a major earthquake and an emergency alert system live code. It used TSW, tsunami warning code, and it was sent out to EAS participants.

About 33 countries participated in this, so it was an international event, which also included their alert and warning capabilities in those countries. The test determined the effectiveness and readiness of authorities, especially of NOAA folks, to warn the public in the event of a disaster. The test lasted approximately two minutes on the air.

EAS participants and broadcasters tuned to monitor NOAA radio to receive these messages. We were able to prove that we could take an EAS that has been dormant and not exercised or practiced, and refresh it and make it work. Of course, we have to continue, and they at their level have to continue to improve that and practice and exercise it, but it is good to provide that spark and push and that is one of the things we want to do with many of our alert and warning communities throughout the country.

[Slide 11]

You’re seeing this slide again, but this time you see VITEMA, which stands for Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency. VITEMA is currently working—and let me say that we worked closely with the VI, and I worked with this agency (that is where I am originally from) and so we wanted to take a large state, like Alaska, with a large geographical area, a well-practiced and exercised EAS and a strong broadcast and EAS participant community. We wanted to do that in Alaska. We had success there. But we also wanted to do this in an area that wasn’t doing that before—that is just getting very serious about emergency management and alerts and warnings. They know the importance of this and they came to us and asked us to help them out.

We saw this other angle down in the Virgin Islands. It is a different environment and dynamic. We wanted to see if we could make this work there as well. It did work. We went there and suggested this approach to them, as you see on your screen. It is being worked out. We tested the top part with CAP.

We sent the first required monthly test from the state emergency operation center, using CAP, and going through the IPAWS gateway or aggregator, which was the first time that was done live, and it worked. It worked without a lot of hassle. The real message here is that if the state or locality wants to engage in originating alerts and sending them out over EAS, it is very easy to do. It doesn’t cost much money.

I want reiterate that point—to push that point across to jurisdictions that are not using EAS you can do it. It is another source of emergency alert information for your public.

[Slide 12]

Let’s go into some of the technical issues we found in the last two Alaska tests and some of the work we did in the Virgin Islands. Because the EAS had never been tested in an organized and planned fashion, especially at the national level, we wanted to see how this stuff would work.

I don’t think anyone really knew. There has been discussion and debate over many, many years about if it worked, if it had a lot of problems. We found that it has its issues, but that it can all be mitigated with some time and attention.

When we did the first test in Alaska, FEMA sent the wrong ORG code. The ORG code in EAS is the code that is used to identify the organization sending the message. That caused some issues. The second bullet on that slide—the main cable head end did not air the EAN. They didn’t air it because we sent the wrong ORG code.

Most EAS participants did, because if it is an EAN, they ignored that. We corrected that issue in 2011. We mitigated our origination procedures for the most part, and we were successful at getting that main cable head end to send out an EAN. That is important because cable in many areas retransmits or relays the EAN and other EAS messages to other EAS participants.

It is important that cable works properly, not just for that, but for viewers. We also corrected many of the origination procedures and we continue to work towards improving that at the national level. Our origination procedures are almost exactly those that you would use in a state or county. There are some special considerations given that this is a national message.

However, origination is origination and following procedures is extremely important and practice of them is extremely important. State level monitoring assignments are extremely important to the EAS community. We found that many of the participants did properly monitor. Others only monitored one. If that source was unavailable, they didn’t pass the message on.

That is an issue of public safety there. We are encouraging, based on our findings, that monitoring assignments need to be followed, reviewed, and tested. The FCC mandates that two sources be available to that box to receive an EAS message, especially for an Emergency Action Notification for a national message.

We found issues with low audio quality and amplitude. We have improved some of that from the 2010 test to the 2011 test. That still needs help, both on our side with originating the message, and from the EAS participant level. We are discussing that with the technical folks in the industry and the FCC to see if we can come up with some very good tangible solutions to it.

We saw on television text crawl inconsistencies—the position of the crawl, size, color, etcetera. We’ll get a little bit into that as we continue the presentation today. It is extremely important to people with visual problems---visually impaired or have some disabilities in that area that is very important.

If you see a crawl running across very fast and it is a certain background color with certain letters on it—that is going to impact the folks with access and functional needs negatively. That is extremely important. We are talking to the FCC about it to include in future rule-making, but also something that is going to require the best practice approach as well. We will be talking about that more in the next few months and in the next year or so. This is not a quick fix.

The Washington, D.C. FIPS code (Federal Information Process Standard code) is used for national activation. The reason is, there is no U.S. FIPS code. Back in 1995, it was decided to use the D.C. FIPS code for the national activation of the EAS. We have seen some of the EAS equipment manufacturers work with the D.C. FIPS code well within an EAN. Others are working to remedy some issues we have found.

Last year, we saw some duplicate EAS broadcasts, mainly caused by equipment programming and configuration based on their interpretation of FCC rules. We saw a big improvement in 2011. Some software updates were sent that eliminated the duplication of those EAN broadcasts so you didn’t have an endless loop of messages going through.

We also saw the biggest issue which was device installation, training, configuration and operation of the equipment at the local EAS participant level. That is going to be a strong technical outreach and education campaign. That starts tomorrow with the EAS participant roundtable.

We are going to discuss in the sessions we have tomorrow—and there are several of these between now and the test—and these are mainly for technical and operational issues, but also for regulatory issues and the state and local levels, and partnership issues between broadcasters and state and local authorities so that we can have these discursions and come up with best practices and solutions based approaches to these issues that we are seeing with EAS.

Finally, as we wrap up this section—DTV (digital television subchannel EAS)—when there was a transition from analog to digital television, some of that somehow didn’t work very well for EAS. For the most part, the main DTV channels carry EAS—we’ve seen in many instances that the subchannels are not carrying the EAS.

[Slide 13]

I’m going to play a piece of the audio as it was broadcast this year in Alaska on January 26 of the EAS message, just so you can hear what it sounded like. We had some dead air that we mitigated and we worked with.

[Audio Clip]

I just wanted to give the audience an opportunity to hear what happened with the message in Alaska. We did have some issues that we’re mitigating. We had some noise issues. We had the big twenty seconds of silence and some issues with the actual reading of the message. We are working to make sure that doesn’t happen in the actual national test—that this message is clear, concise, and to the point. Sometimes you practice things over and over and over, and when it is time to do them, they do work out perfectly. This has to work out well.

[Slide 14]

Audio quality—that noise, the actual quality of the sound itself is important. We are working not only with our origination folks at the federal level, but also with the FCC to come up with some language that helps emergency managers and message originators to do this a little bit better. This happens everywhere, at any level—state, local, national. The audio quality of the message is extremely important.

[Slide 15]

We spoke earlier about monitoring assignments. If we look at what we saw in Alaska, many of the issues we found were local primary ones or LP1s not relaying the message. This was in fact in some cases due to the fact that they were only monitoring one source. In some cases, they only had one source to monitor.

Folks are working to mitigate that, but in many cases, another source was available, the other source was relaying the message, but at the local station level that source was not being monitored. In this case several LP1s failed to monitor and relay the message which caused the stations that were monitoring them not to transmit the message.

[Slide 16]

If you’re watching television and you get an EAS message and flip from station to station if they are all carrying an EAN, you’ll notice speed differences, the duration the crawl is up, color, size, and content are all different in many cases. We need a better understanding of this video crawl mechanism.

We are working with FCC, our laboratory of the Joint Interoperability Test Command (JITC) to support and improve understanding and to find solutions to this problem with industry as well. I think we need more specific rules and better understanding of the crawl.

[Slide 17]

Here you can see the difference. If you look at the upper left, you can hardly read that. If you have problems seeing, especially with television—and if I take my glasses off, I can’t even read what’s there. We have to make it bigger and clearer. If you look at the upper right—color-blindness is an issue, for example—you can read that a little better.

If you look at the middle picture—what is the specification for this? Who decides? That is the issue we see with the crawl.

[Slide 18]

This is the biggest problem right here—device installation and operation, configuration, wiring, lack of redundancy, tuning of a receiver. If you don’t check that receiver and make sure it is tuned to the proper station or not tuned to a station at all, you’re not going to get the message. I’m not going to spend a lot of time getting into the technical part of this, but these are the findings we are seeing that get into the nifty gritty aspect of EAS.

[Slide 19]

DTV, digital television, is very important to this. Digital television now has multiple channels you can watch. If the EAS message isn’t carried in all of those channels, the audience, public, viewers, will miss a very important warning message. We are urging DTV to help us find solutions in this area.

Satellite television—we have to work closely with them to make sure that not only the national message gets out, but how do you get a state message to go out on DTV? Normally, you would get it through the local or state television station that is going through satellite. What if you are watching CNN or something like that? Is that going to get interrupted with a state or local level message?

Those are questions that are being asked that we seek to answer and debate and answer within the next few months. We are not going to solve all the issues before the test, but we want to start discussing them now. Cable operations, cable interrupt, forced tuning—how does that work? Can we make that mechanism better? Can we improve upon it?

[Slide 20]

Let’s summarize what we’ve found in the last few tests. The main reason the EAS message was neither received nor relayed was in large part due to individual and localized technical malfunctions. In some places, we had actual electronic failures. We can’t predict those. Your light bulb will pop and go out without any kind of warning. This happens, too, with electronic components.

We had bad power supplies, distribution amps, but also we had that monitoring issue. We had misconfigured devices and mistuned receivers that connect to these devices. Operational plans and procedures at state level should be followed closely by EAS participants and broadcasts stations and cable because of the monitoring issue.

What we found that was very positive was that the cooperation in these jurisdictions that we have been working with was excellent. The relationship between the EAS participants, the broadcast community, and the state government was tremendous. We would like to see more of that at every level across the country.

I know there are limitations and challenges to that. If you have those challenges, it would be good if you let us know. Maybe we could help and maybe we could provide some examples to get there. I don’t think there is any situation that is unwinnable. We can make this happen.

The outreach we conducted in Alaska was adequate and well done. The public knew what was up. Nobody got surprised. No one was unduly concerned.

[Slide 21]

As we continue with the summary, last year in 2010, we had about 64%-65% results of folks at stations who broadcast the event. We monitored about 119 stations last year and this year as well. This year we got 81%. We saw a huge improvement based on the work that the broadcast community, EAS participants and state government’s work.

We conducted workshops, we provided technical best practices, and we saw a big improvement. Anchorage, Alaska, which has the largest population in Alaska showed that 94% of participants aired the EAN. That is good to know.

[Slide 22]

We learned a lot. Incremental testing is critical to incremental improvement of the EAS at all levels, not just the national level. I’m emphasizing all levels because the national EAS doesn’t work as well if the state EAS doesn’t work. We want to help the states by doing this—to get the states and the counties to see how their EAS is working and improve it as we go.

Outreach efforts were very positive and provided good results. Public undue concern was not an issue. People didn’t go panicking all over the place. That is not something we saw in any of the tests and demonstrations that we have done. Cooperation between all participants was great.

We noticed that procedures and rules at all levels require updating, including ours at origination—FCC rules, etcetera—all that needs to be updated. We can’t do it in a day or in a year, but we need to start doing it.

Participants require additional training. We are going to be working with the FCC and you to provide this orientation training and information to all participants through EAS handbooks, workshops, bulletins, blogs, and events such as this.

[Slide 23]

We are going to continue doing what we are doing, which you’ve heard me speak about for the last hour. We are going to continue to support FCC’s EAS rule-making process. We encourage you to write comments to the FCC and request information as they are right now opening windows for that. Please review your monitoring assignments at the state level.

Work with the broadcast community and EAS participants. Participate in increased training and technical efforts. We are going to start those in earnest. We have already started, but you are going to hear a lot more about this. We are going to continue to do demonstrations. We are working with several jurisdictions right now to do so.

We are going to continue operational planning for the national test later this year. One of the things I wanted to make sure we plugged during this conversation is that tomorrow at 12:30-1:50 EST, we are going to have session one of the EAS Participant Roundtable. We are going to be discussing AM, FM, and digital radio during that session.

We have some very good partners in this—representatives of major broadcasts and EAS participant organizations—the National Association of Broadcasters, the Society of Broadcast Engineers, National Alliance of State Broadcasters Association, the American Cable Association, the Alaska Broadcasters Association, and some folks from Michigan—I could go on and on. There are quite a few on that list.

In the afternoon, from 2:30 to 3:50, we are going to have session two, which is going to cover topics of digital television, cable and satellite. We encourage you to join us. If you go to the FEMA website you can get more information. Amy has information on that as well.

[Slide 24]

There is my information if anyone wants to write or call, I’m available to discuss anything you’d like. This meeting has been well attended and I’m very happy to see that. Thank you for letting me speak to the group today and inform them about what we’re doing. I hope the information has been valuable to them.

Amy Sebring: Excellent Manny. Thank you very much. Now, to proceed to our Q&A

[Audience Questions & Answers]

Tom Fahy: How can interested organizations or individuals participate in the EAS Roundtable discussions that Manny referenced?

Amy Sebring: In the meeting notice or on the background page, there is an invitation. It will be held in Live Meeting. It is a different URL than EM Forum, but if you connect to EM Forum, you should be able to connect.

Manny Centeno: We are also going to be inviting folks like Tom to workshops and webinars we’re going to have between now and the test and beyond that. Tom, expect a call from me.

Isabel McCurdy: I'm still not understanding what 'monitoring assignments' mean. Would you clarify this for me? Thanks!

Manny Centeno: Each EAS participant within regulated broadcast entities—radio stations, television stations, cable head ends, satellite broadcasters—are mandated by FCC rules, (specifically Part 11 of those rules) to relay and transmit national EAS messages. Those stations can also volunteer to participate in state level EAS.

The monitoring assignments is—the state EOC is issuing an alert, it will likely go to a state primary or a station designated as the main station. The monitoring assignment tells the broadcaster which station they are supposed to monitor or receive the message from. They take a radio, similar to radio you have in your car, and tune it to the station that is indicated in that list. That is the monitoring assignment.

That message is input or connected to their EAS device. Their EAS device recognizes the tones and automatically puts the message on the air. So the monitoring assignment is who you are supposed to listen to get that message.

Robert Gass: Are all sub-channels required to carry the EAS tests?

Manny Centeno: According to the FCC rules, yes. If you are a regulated FCC entity, a broadcast entity, according to the rules from my interpretation, you are to carry the EAS message. For the national test, because it is live code EAN, sub-channels are expected to carry that EAN.

Paula Tucker: Regarding the captions/crawls -- have you worked with any groups of deaf consumers to determine what is the preferred style of captions? For example, the PSA with Ms. Murkowski used a captioning style that was difficult to read, and not at all what deaf people are used to seeing.

Manny Centeno: Exactly. We understand that some may not be able to read certain things. We have been talking to a lot of organizations and groups on how to better form that crawl. EAS does have its limitations as it currently exists. We are working with different organizations to get there to research this.

This is why we’re testing it—to find out what’s there, first of all. It is also so that folks, like the participants today, can ask that kind of question. It makes us aware of things we may be missing. We certainly don’t have all the answers. We look forward to hearing more from the community so we can better inform ourselves about this.

Darryl Parker: Will you share test procedures and parameters with manufacturers in advance of the planned national test so that manufacturers may assist customers in proper installation, configuration, and operation in order to mitigate some of the technical malfunctions that were experienced in Alaska?

Manny Centeno: Absolutely. I think you have been in touch with some of our folks at the Joint Interoperability Test Command (JITC). That is the IPAWS lab. They are our partner. We fund that lab. We will be working with you very closely. In fact, I met with JITC last week and they are going through some documentation of what they are seeing with not only the older legacy equipment but also the newer equipment.

They will be in touch and we will be in touch very soon to discuss some of those items you mentioned, if not all of them. We plan to work with you before the test to make sure we are all informed and we also know your concerns.

Budd Johnson: I have always been concerned about the broadcasting of alerts, especially severe weather notifications when the viewer is watching satellite or cable TV. I'm glad to see you are addressing this. Great presentation.

Manny Centeno: Thank you so much. That is the big issue. I think all of these different segments of the EAS community and electronic mass media groups and entities want to solve this. There are some very specific technical challenges to get this information from a county level to a satellite system.

That is something that needs to be debated over time and see if we can come up with better ways to do this. There are other issues. Sometimes you are watching television—I haven’t seen it on satellite, but I’ve seen it on cable—where they will take away something very informative like the weather man on radar and it force tunes it to something else that isn’t as descriptive or informational, given the fact that you may get a tornado dropped on you.

That is one of the reasons for the roundtables and webinars, for the business we are doing. We are starting, especially for cable, we are working with a major cable operator to put together a sandbox so we can do research and experiment with some of these issues. We hope to be working with the satellite committees as well to try to find ways to insert certain message into programming for those subscribers.

We’re happy you are asking this and we are glad you are participating.

Amy Sebring: My understanding is that everyone will have a minimum of two months advance notice on the test. Is that correct?

Manny Centeno: The FCC has committed in their documentation to provide the two months advance official notice. We will give our partners ample time to prepare. That is why we are doing this now—to get them going. There are also many audiences and partners we need to address between now and then.

We are going to be running fast and hard in the next few months getting all of this done, but that is an important thing. Everyone is going to have sufficient notice and we are going to make ourselves available for any questions and concerns.


Amy Sebring: Time to wrap for today. Thank you very much Manny. We appreciate your taking the time to be with us today and we wish you good luck in your future planning efforts. We know you have a big job ahead.

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Until then, thanks to everyone for participating today and have a great afternoon. We are adjourned.