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Centeno: ‘Let’s Continue to Strike While The Iron Is Hot’

Engineer at center of test operations says national test was long overdue

In addition to speaking with Radio World’s Leslie Stimson yesterday, Manny Centeno addressed the industry about the recently conducted national EAS test in a post to the SBE EAS listserv.

Centeno is FEMA IPAWS program manager, but he said he wrote the following in a private role as an engineer; this is his personal opinion:

After careful thought, I wanted to post my observations on the Nationwide EAS Test here first as a fellow broadcaster. Over the years, I’ve seen much good accomplished with EAS as someone who has sat on both the private and public sectors. Because of this test, I, along with thousands of others in the industry, view EAS with new found respect for the complexity and intricacy of the system and with more determination to see it improve.

The EAS was established in 1994-1995 primarily to provide the President of the United States with a capability to reach the American people in times of extreme national emergencies. Thankfully, we’ve been fortunate such an emergency has never happened. While the EAS has been there for a long time, other technologies such as email, smart phones, and social media, have given the false impression that the EAS is an alert and warning tool that is of no relevance to modern day. Luckily, the test has raised the public consciousness to a level where we, as broadcasters, can educate them of its daily relevance for life saving alerts and its resilient nature with improvements and future CAP integration.

The first-ever nationwide test of the EAS was long overdue. Conducting a test of that magnitude was much debated over the years. Finally, this year, many thousands of broadcasters, cable, wireline and satellite professionals came together to give the never-used National EAS a real test drive, preparing for the worst and hoping for the best. None of us ever thought it would be a perfect outcome-in fact we even identified the pitfalls beforehand and set expectations for what EAS is and is not to our industry. The EAS was tested at the national level because we all knew it was necessary and a valuable learning experience for identifying limitations. No matter the outcome, our collective goal was always simple: we were going to fix EAS. As we look at the many “lessons learned” and identify areas for improvement, let’s keep focused on making sure it continues to be ready while improvements are made.

Conducting a test of this magnitude, depth, and breadth took courage… so, we did it.

Regardless of the shape of the audio message any of us heard on November 9th, it is important to note that the activation worked and spread all over the country. Some areas did not receive it at all and some heard an incomplete message. The fact of the matter is: Millions of Americans, coast-to-coast, heard the message- even with warts and all.

It is expected that this type of event will attract some that will ridicule the effort, its process, outcome, and even future. These are usually the folks that do not understand the EAS or its purpose. It is my hope that we continue to work together to better educate our communities and the nation on the importance of this tool and push forward with improving it.

For the first time in almost two decades we and others with a new-found, vested interest are paying very close attention to the EAS. The support, and yes, even the scrutiny, will motivate all of us to incrementally improve, continue to exercise, and make it the robust public safety tool it should have been a long time ago.

Let’s continue to strike while the iron is hot.

As a fellow broadcaster, this test has only reinforced how proud I am to be a part of an industry that is a steward of critical information that will save lives, but also wants to enrich this tool and see the EAS finally reach its full potential.

Thank you all.
Manny Centeno