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Sep 21

Paul McLane
9/21/2011 4:00:00 PM 

Adrienne Abbott is among the most articulate people in the EAS community. The chair of the Nevada State Emergency Communications Committee recently posted some thoughts to help broadcasters get ready for the upcoming national EAS test. She wrote in the newsletter of the Nevada Broadcasters Association, but her summary will be helpful to any participant. Although the newsletter went out last week, it was overshadowed in trade news circles by the Radio Show convention.

Here are some key points extracted from her article, which in turn compiles information from recent EAS webinars and other sources. A link to her full article is at the end. (And this is all in addition to Nevada’s own planned mini-national test, set for Sept. 26.)

-Examine the audio you get now in EAS tests from your monitoring assignments. “Are the signals dependable and reliable? Is the audio clear enough to understand when you rebroadcast it? Are you receiving that AM signal with a bare wire that has the electronic characteristics of a coat hanger?” Consider adding quality receiving equipment or antennas.

-Check the basics, such as whether your gear is plugged in to power and to antennas. Really.

-Confirm that your equipment is set to receive tests and activations properly (in Nevada, for example, as listed in the Nevada EAS Mapbook).

-Check the quality of those signals. “Are they reliable and clear? Do your logs indicate that you receive every test and activation as indicated by the EAS Weekly Activity Report?” Abbott added this in bold: “Your EAS logs are the first and best indicator of whether your station will be able to receive and rebroadcast the national EAS test as well as any presidential-level activations.”

-Check the website of the manufacturer of your EAS gear for updates and recommendations.

-She reminded everyone that Common Alerting Protocol will not be used in the November national EAS Test.

Abbott went on to summarize what we can expect to happen during the November test.

“FEMA will issue the EAN activation at the request of the White House at approximately 2 p.m. Eastern, 11 a.m. Pacific. It is expected that a Presidential Communications Officer will actually read the EAS test message, which will run approximately two and a half minutes.

“It will take a couple of minutes for the message to render into the PEP system and then launch to the Local Primary stations and the Participating Stations. This means it may be a little after 2 p.m. Eastern, 11 a.m. Pacific, by the time the test reaches your station, so wait for it! Continue your normal programming until the EAN comes in and takes over your EAS equipment and with it, your programming.” (As RW has noted, that entire test should run about three minutes, including the EAS tones before and after the message.)

“This will stress the ‘seize and control’ capability of the EAN Event Code, the only EAS Event Code that does not have a two-minute time limit,” she continued. “It is important that you or your operator allow the End of Message signal — the three short data bursts — to play out before switching back to normal programming. Do not attempt to end the test yourself. It may not be easy to do this because the person reading the message may pause or hesitate in their reading. But FEMA assures us that the EOM will be sent.”

Among other details, Abbott emphasized that an Emergency Action Termination (EAT) will not be sent as part of the November national test.

“The use of the EAT in conjunction with an EAN is outlined in the FCC’s official EAS Handbook as a way to notify National Non-Participating stations which must go off the air if an EAN is issued, that they can return to the air and resume broadcasting. In fact, you should NOT follow the procedures in the EAS Handbook. We have known for years that those procedures were incorrect, if not impossible to follow.”

Also, in addition to the PEP network, the national test will be sent to most NPR stations via NPR’s “squawk” channel. “Stations are advised to have a knowledgeable person on hand who can manually cancel any duplicate tests that might be received by stations that monitor both a PEP and an NPR station. If a duplicate test occurs and you can’t stop it from going out, we are being told that sending a Required Weekly Test (RWT) in the duplicate EAN activation will cancel the test.”

Abbott said FEMA’s “Best Practices” guide for stations is expected to be available in early October. “But you can start your preparations now by reviewing the previous webinars that are archived on the IdeaScale website and making sure your equipment is properly set up, programmed and operating in compliance with Part 11.”

A fully informed engineering community needs this kind of plain-talk, bottom-line analysis. Thanks, Adrienne.

Abbott’s full article is here. Reach Adrienne Abbott at nevadaeas@charter.net.
 

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