Larry Wilkins is director of Engineering Services for the Alabama Broadcasters Association and Matthew Straeb is a principal at Global Security Systems, in charge of building the Alert FM nationwide alerting network and providing locales with disaster resistant alert systems.
Prior to 2011, Alabama’s EAS system monitored Alabama Public Television Network and the Alabama Digital Satellite Network as their two sources for EAS alerts and tests. However, when ADSN was acquired by another company and moved out of state, the Alabama Broadcasters Association needed a new EAS message source.
The ABA was looking for a solution to receive and deliver the IPAWS CAP feed for EAS without relying on the internet in the event IP network failed. The parameters for the network included having an existing footprint in the state, CAP compliance, provide access to FEMA’s IPAWS and fewer activation steps to issue an alert
After researching several companies and consulting with the Alabama Emergency Management Agency, ABA settled on Global Security Systems LLC as their new EAS provider and monitoring source. Through the implementation of the company’s Alert FM, an FM RDS emergency notification system, in several Alabama counties, GSS already had an established footprint in the state including a satellite network known as GSSNet. GSS also had the capabilities to provide AEMA and the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency with easy message dissemination through Alert Studio, which could also be connect to FEMA’s IPAWS for the distribution of Wireless Emergency Alerts and Nonweather Emergency Messages to weather radios.
As part of the implementation process, ABA worked with AEMA to divide the state into eight operational areas and then designated two full power FM stations per area to for GSSNet downlink equipment installation. Equipment was also installed at the two public radio station networks that have multiple towers around the state to bring the total of markets covered to 23. A Sage Alerting Systems ENDEC was also installed at each station location so each station could receive EAS alerts to broadcast as well as forward to other stations in the designated area.
Both AEMA and ALEA were provided with access for multiple originators to Alert Studio and were trained by GSS staff on inputting and sending an EAS message. The great success of this system is due to a close relationship between the Alabama Emergency Management Agency, Alabama governor’s office, Alabama Broadcast Association and Global Security Systems.
Since implementation in 2011, ABA has continuously had successful Required Monthly Tests and National Public Tests.
In 2016, The Alabama State Emergency Communications Committee with GSS support set up a special FTP server that presently monitors over 100 EAS units around the state. This allows the SECC to continuously monitor the “health” of the state distribution system. It has also proved to aid stations in maintaining compliance with current FCC rules. A statewide data base is maintained to track the reception and relay of required test and/or alerts, both state and national.
With this system we were able to observe the success of the recent national EAS test within minutes after it ran. This monitoring service is offered at cost to broadcast stations. We encourage FCC and other broadcasters to consider this approach.