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Big Regional EAS Test Is Wednesday

Test will cover geographic area with five times the number of radio, TV and cable stations of previous tests

Wednesday, the Federal Emergency Management Agency will conduct an EAS test that covers a sizable swath of the nation.

At 2:20 p.m. ET on Feb. 24, FEMA plans to test the National Periodic Test header code via another Integrated Public Alert and Warning System test. This test will be across a geographic area with five times the number of radio, TV and cable operations than any previous test, said Al Kenyon, IPAWS national test technical lead for the IPAWS program office within FEMA.

As in previous tests, the goal is to give participating broadcasters the opportunity to confirm that their gear is properly configured to deal with NPT-coded messages. Participating stations will automatically relay the alert and associated audio message to the public and to other stations downstream from them under their respective state EAS plans.

This test will also include a test message containing both English- and Spanish-language audio and messages.

“We have advised television engineers and engineers of Spanish-language stations that they may want to coordinate with their area EAS local primary stations to delay transmitting the NPT by one minute,” Kenyon said. “This will enhance the opportunity for local TV stations to retrieve the fully featured [common alerting protocol] CAP version of the alert from IPAWS prior to receiving the alert [over the air] from a local primary [station].”

[Learn the date of the next national EAS test, announced this week.]

Kenyon said FEMA is also working with the FCC and EAS device manufacturers to enable EAS boxes to do a so-called quick check with IPAWS upon receipt of an over-the-air alert for certain non-time-critical event code messages.

“That would make [any sort of] mechanical delay unnecessary,” Kenyon said. “This sort of delay can be done for this voluntary test, but don’t try it after July 30,” he advised.

FEMA says its IPAWS office is prepared for its largest EAS test to date.

“This should be interesting,” Kenyon said. “Serving the message for this test will put a greater load on our servers than we have seen to date.” However, he does not expect it will be a significant problem for the agency’s two geo-diverse data centers. “But the traffic report should be interesting,” he added.

The states included in this upcoming test include Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Texas, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Virginia and Washington, D.C.

Questions on the upcoming EAS test can be sent to Kenyon at [email protected].