Abbott: News Media Don’t Understand EAS
I’ve shared with you in the past the EAS
perspectives of Adrienne Abbott, chair of the State Emergency Communications
Committee for the state of Nevada. I returned to her today for an emailed
Q&A about the just-completed national test.
in engineering circles are calling Wednesday’s national EAS test a “disaster.”
Others acknowledge problems but say that was pretty much the point. How do you
characterize its success?
I term the test a “success” because the EAN
event code worked very much as designed. It took over programming at radio and
TV stations across the country and allowed FEMA to issue a message that was
heard pretty much simultaneously everywhere. Yes, the audio portion of the test
had problems but because the EAN took away control of their stations, there was
nothing broadcasters could do about it. That loss of control was one of the
elements being tested with the use of the EAN code. As broadcasters, we are
committed to perfect audio and perfect video and we get frustrated when we
can’t fix audio and video problems. But we can’t let ourselves get lost in the
fact that despite the audio problems, the National Test technically did what it
was supposed to do.
how did the test come through to radio listeners in your state, and what kind
of problems were reported by stations, if any?
The stations in the Nevada EAS Operational Area
experienced the same problems that other stations around the country are
reporting — the second set of EAS tones and audio under the activation audio
received by stations monitoring PEP sources, the lack of any audio in the
activation in stations that monitored NPR channels received and the delays in
rebroadcasting the test that were noted in stations using the DASDEC equipment.
Then there were the handful of remote, rural stations that did not receive the
test at all. And for those stations, the test proves the fact that there are
some places even a daisy-chain can’t reach.
should broadcasters be thinking or doing now that this test is past?
Broadcasters should be thinking about what we
learned from losing control of our airwaves to a national EAS activation that
was less than perfect. What if this was a real event? What would our next steps
be once we regained control of our stations? Would we be in a good position to
tell people what they need to know to survive whatever disaster was underway?
And we need to discuss and speculate on whether a problem EAN activation is
serious enough for us to step in, abort the EAN and take back our stations to
provide accurate information to our audiences. That’s one discussion that we
haven’t had yet that needs to take place before the next National Test.
We also need to review the steps we took to
participate in this test. There was a lot of talk about Monitoring Assignments
and we need to consider whether the current Monitoring Assignments should
remain in place or is it time to make some changes? FEMA is adding new PEP stations
and those are not always Local Primary stations. The FCC rules still mandate
only two monitoring assignments so there is a question today about whether that
rule should be changed. The FCC has not released the revised Part 11 and after
this test, they may want to consider another rewrite and another Comment and
Reply period. EAS Plans will be re-written for CAP so this is the appropriate
time to consider any changes in Monitoring Assignments.
sent a note after the test to your local news media, can you share it?
EAS Chair, I have to contradict what a lot of media pundits are saying this
afternoon. From the perspective of the broadcasters, today’s National EAS Test
was a success. FEMA took over the broadcasters' airwaves to deliver a product
to the public via the Emergency Alert System and the equipment that the FCC
designed and mandated that we use. EAS worked as designed. The product that
FEMA gave us was less than perfect and because the equipment worked the way the
FCC designed it to work, there was nothing broadcasters could do to fix or
improve that product. But we did the job of getting it--warts and all--out to
that the problems we encountered were exactly those that many of have predicted
only enhances the message that we have been trying to communicate to the FCC
for all these years. Now the FCC--and we--have proof that the PEP network
doesn't reach everywhere and that you can't rely on the NPR network to back up
PEP, particularly when they are given a faulty product.
answer is not to throw out all things EAS, but to take what we have learned and
use it to improve the system. We know now that EAS can be used to issue a
national warning, we just have to solve the problems with the audio at the source.
We also have to make sure the public and our media know and understand what
other key points?
We learned so much from yesterday’s test. We
know things now we didn’t know this time Tuesday. Above all, we learned that
EAS can be used for National activations but we also know that any problems
that occur at the source will be repeated on down the line. That’s not a reason
for scrapping the entire system.
And today we have solid proof of something many
of us have said for years: the news media does not understand EAS. The print
journalists at least have the excuse that there is nothing in the print world
that is similar to EAS, and they can’t begin to understand the ins and outs of
government regulation because print has no government regulation. But the
broadcast news media has no excuse and they continue to do incredible damage to
themselves and their industry by their ignorance.