FEMA Will Offer Makeup EAS Alert Tests

FEMA will offer an opportunity for “makeup” tests in states where last week’s regional EAS IPAWS test was cancelled shortly before airing.
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FEMA will offer an opportunity for “makeup” tests in states where last week’s regional EAS IPAWS test was cancelled shortly before airing.

Three states were dropped at the request of their emergency management agencies (Florida, North Carolina and Virginia) and three more at the recommendation of the National Weather Service due to recent severe local weather (Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi). As a result, frustrations ran high among stations that had been expecting the test and didn’t know of the change.

But Federal Emergency Management Agency Press Secretary Susan Hendrick said that the test deployed to broadcast and cable operators in 16 states, two territories and Washington, D.C. “[They] were able to participate and test their capabilities of delivering a national message to their listeners, viewers and subscribers,” she said.

The goal of the test — which FEMA emphasized was a voluntary one — was to alert and warn a more diverse audience to strengthen preparedness.

Hendrick emphasized that state agencies or the National Weather Service may choose to opt out or advise of an area to be dropped due to real-world events like severe weather. “This allows individual states to be dropped from the test to avoid any possibility of the test message causing public confusion during an active emergency,” she said.

The agency said it plans to conduct individual make-up tests at a date and time convenient for individual states. Radio World will provide an update about any scheduled makeups.

Despite some reports of frustration from radio stations and state broadcast associations, many participants told Radio World they were satisfied with the test.

“It went smoothly for us, and I am pleased with the uneventful outcome,” said Joseph Haefeli, engineer for WRFI in Ithaca. N.Y. He suggested that FEMA continue multi-state tests of this nature. “[It] does serve as a reminder as to how the regular EAS testing process becomes routine and routine easily breeds complacency,” he said. “Repetitively testing in the exact same manner, with positive results every time, may create the illusion that all facets of the system are working properly.

“Perhaps it is time to explore the idea of introducing variations to the regular EAS testing regimen,” he continued, “especially given the increasingly complex interrelationships EAS has with other communications systems as well as an abundance of local, state and federal governmental agencies.

Separately, some stations also had told Radio World they heard distorted or muffled audio. One observer familiar with the process said such reports are indicative of situations where a test message was received over the air from another station and that over-the-air relay demonstrates the strength of the EAS because message distribution does not depend solely on Internet connectivity.

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