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Big Regional EAS Test Hits Its Mark

Nine states participated in trial of Emergency Alert System Wednesday

Early indications are that the June 15 EAS test in the Western states went off swimmingly.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency scheduled a regional test of the Emergency Alert System on June 15 for nine states in the country’s west and north central regions: California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Wyoming and Washington.

The State Emergency Communications Committee chairs in both Washington and Oregon reported that there was “great participation” among radio and television broadcasters.

Keith Shipman, president and CEO of the Washington State Association of Broadcasters and Oregon Association of Broadcasters, said the SECC chairs reported that “the national test went very well … that the audio quality was superb, and that they felt it was a successful test drive for the mandatory exercise this fall.”

The same is being reported from Colorado. “I was on the call with FEMA as they prepared to launch the test and witnessed what I would label a ‘successful test’ for Colorado,” said Justin Sasso, president and CEO of the Colorado Broadcasters Association. “Audibly and visually I confirmed the airing of the test through some of our Denver stations, and throughout the afternoon the CBA received positive feedback from stations throughout Colorado.”

Sasso said that there had been no reports in Colorado so far of a problematic test. “The CBA will continue to reach out to Colorado’s broadcasters and confirm that there were no issues as well as offer support for the upcoming, mandatory, September EAS test,” he said.

FEMA IPAWS Program Manager Al Kenyon said in a conversation with state broadcast association representatives, SECC chairs and state emergency management representatives that the test went very well.

“We had over 1,050 message retrievals from IPAWS and so far the only reported issues concern our developing ability to generate and distribute multilingual messages,” he told the representatives. “With the cooperation of the broadcast and cable industry, CAP authoring tool developers and EAS device manufacturers, we have gone beyond simply testing message delivery to demonstrating, and now improving the quality of, our mutual ability to deliver EAS messages in English and other languages.”

One source told Radio World there have been some reports from Washington State in which stations with old high-priority filters had set the NPT message to log-only and not “relay,” a situation that was quickly identified and resolved. Said one Washington engineer: “That’s why we test.”

The regional test offers further evidence that broadcasting are a trusted, viable means of transmitting emergency information, one broadcaster said.

“Ultimately, today’s test is further evidence that broadcasters truly are the all-encompassing resource to the general public in times of emergency,” Sasso said.

A nationwide EAS test is scheduled for the afternoon of Sept. 28, 2016.