Ala. — During the transition from EBS to EAS in 1996, the state of Alabama was
still using the “daisy-chain” method of distributing EAS alerts. A couple of years
later we discovered that a number of states had started other means of
According to FCC rules, all broadcast
stations and cable systems must monitor two sources capable of relaying
messages from the White House. The key word here is “sources.” That could mean
radio stations, Internet, subchannels, satellite, etc.
The state decided to use the services
of two statewide networks already in place: the Alabama Public Television
Network (APT) which has nine transmitters that cover almost the entire state;
and the Alabama Digital Satellite Network (ADSN), a regional sports network,
which had more than 60 downlinks across the state.
A revision to the state plan required
all stations to monitor these two sources for EAS alerts and test. This
distribution method worked very well for a number of years.
Recently, ADSN was purchased and move
out of the state, leaving the state with only one distribution network. Sharon
Tinsley, Alabama Broadcast Association (ABA) president, and I met with several
companies to discuss possible solutions to the situation.
We decided to use the services of Global
Security Systems, based in Jackson, Miss. GSS already had
GSSNet, their satellite data delivery system, online at a number of stations in
Alabama as part of their Alert FM system. Therefore, it only made sense to
build on this network.
To facilitate to monitoring two sources
for EAS messages, the Alabama Emergency Management Agency divided the state
into eight operational areas. Based on these eight areas, ABA designated two
full-power FM stations in each of the areas to install GSSNet downlink
equipment. Equipment also was installed at two public radio networks, both of which
have multiple stations around the state. To date, there are 23 markets set up
with the GSSNet satellite equipment.The GSSNet equipment broadcasts to the new CAP/EAS units by means of
multicast IP. I have been busy traveling to these stations to program the GSS
units with the stations new EAS equipment.
In August, we ran our first Required
Monthly Test (RMT) using the GSSNet system. The comments from the field were
all positive. The system uses GSSNet Alert Studio, a secure Web interface, for message
origination, which allows alerts to be sent from any location. Alerts are sent
using the CAP protocol, which is then converted to audio with the text-to-speech
converters in the EAS units. As an alternative, you can also attach audio files
to the message. This is useful should the governor need to send an alert using
his own voice. JPEG photos can also be distributed with the alerts. Alerts may
be sent to all counties for statewide alerts or a selected number of counties
for regional types of events.
Training sessions have been held with personnel
at the Department of Public Safety responsible for issuing Amber Alerts and the
Emergency Operational Center, which handles alerts from the governor’s office.
The entire startup project was funded
by the Alabama Broadcasters Association with no cost to the broadcast stations.
Additional expansion of the network is being planned for the future.
Overall the Alabama Broadcasters
Association is satisfied with GSSNet and its Alert Studio application. We would
recommend it any state for CAP-EAS message delivery.
Wilkins is Alabama EAS Coordinator/ABIP Inspector for Alabama Broadcasters
For information, contact Jim Lowery at Global
Security Systems in Mississippi at (866) 896-5180 or visit www.gssnet.us.