Some engineers and managers have expressed concern that the EAS system isn’t quite up to handling the pending national system test on Nov. 9. Questions have been raised on industry listservs about what might be done between now and then to improve it.
Perhaps the sanest thought in answer to this comes from Clay Freinwald, chair of the State Emergency Communications Committee in Washington and former chair of the SBE’s EAS Committee. He’s a past recipient of Radio World’s Excellence in Engineering Award and a widely recognized EAS expert.
“Seems to me that the purpose of this test is to give the feds, for the first time, a clear picture of the state of the EAS — as it stands,” Clay wrote on an SBE remailer this week. He gave me permission to reprint his comments.
“There have been many of us, over the years, who have tried to explain the real state of this system,” he continued. “This national test will clearly demonstrate exactly how it is,” he wrote. “I don’t agree with those that appear to be scrambling to piece together an 11th-hour fix for the system, rather I feel we should let the ‘chips fall where they may.’ This is the only way that those in Washington, D.C., will truly be able to analyze the EAS.”
Clay certainly knows the system is imperfect. He recalled being involved with the selection of a PEP station in Washington state. “I recall trying to explain that the Cascade Mountains are a significant barrier to RF etc. All I got was a thank you. When I saw the first maps of PEP coverage, I questioned the fact that these were based on daytime coverage and that night was very different. Again, all I received was a thank you for your observation. (You will note that the national test is not going to be conducted at night).
“The SECCs in each state were supposed to figure out how to get the EAN from that area’s PEP distributed state-wide,” he continued. “Some states have done it, some have done nothing, IMHO. That’s fine. There was little leadership and no funding to make that happen.”
But, Clay continued, “I do praise the feds for having the guts to actually run a test. I can fully understand why they have not done so in the past because the results would have been ugly and the news media might use this against them etc. This is going to be interesting. It will be a very ‘teachable’ event. Now is not the time to come running with a box of Band-Aids.”
In a subsequent email to me, Clay recommended that station managers follow the rules, fill out and submit the required forms, make sure they are monitoring the sources prescribed by their state or local plans and be at the station when the test comes in to observe and note what happened.
“It appears that many are, perhaps for the first time, starting to really think about EAS and what this national test might reveal about their previous attitude and/or efforts regarding compliance,” he told me.
“If the station is doing what they should be doing, per their monitoring assignments and Part 11, then, as I have stated, let the chips fall where they may. If their station runs it, great. If they don’t receive it, great. This is the ONLY way the feds are going to learn the good, bad and ugly about the state of the system (as was the case in Alaska).”
His comments are a useful reminder of what the commission has stated: This exercise is intended to be about fact-finding, not about looking for opportunities to penalize stations. If you find yourself getting worked up about a detail of the test or of the comments form, take a deep breath. Things will become apparent; and if problems result, that might actually be a good thing, as documenting such problems can help make the system better.