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Next EAS Regional Test Planned for March

Will consist of NPT message with audio in four states

FEMA’s Integrated Public Alert & Warning System Program Management Office is planning another regional test leading up to the next national test of the Emergency Alerting System.

Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee expressed an interest in participating, according to alerting sources.

The joint test is slated for March 18 at 2:30 p.m. Eastern. Testers wanted to avoid sending out an alert at the top-of-the-hour or during rush hours, according to Tennessee Association of Broadcasters President Whit Adamson.

The test will consist of a National Periodic Test message with a brief audio message originated by FEMA IPAWS Lab at the Joint Interoperability Test Command in Maryland and sent to the four participating states through the IPAWS. The audio message will essentially be the same as the one normally used for the Required Monthly Tests.

Radio and TV stations, cable systems and wireless carriers are to take part as both EAS and Wireless Emergency Alerts are to be tested. Listeners and viewers will be able to hear and see the alerts, but participants don’t want to alarm the public.

This test is similar to the one conducted last September by FEMA with the West Virginia Department of Emergency Management. More than 55% of the state’s broadcasters took part, resulting in a successful broadcast relay of the test message by 90% of participants, we reported.

Adamson hopes to match or better that: “We’d love to have” that participation, he tells Radio World. “We’ve got good engineers. We take this seriously; we’re going to be fired up and ready to go.”

The few failures of the September 2014 test were due to EAS device configuration errors, we reported at the time. To take part, broadcasters in the four states will need to configure their EAS encoders/decoders to forward received NPT messages with their originator code “PEP” which are targeted to their area. Each participating state broadcast association will track voluntary participants in their state and whether or not the station was able to relay the test message.

FEMA is planning to hold two webinars for engineers and operators who may need to adjust the message filters on their EAS devices before the test in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee. The first is Feb. 11 at noon Eastern and the second is March 5 at 2 p.m. Eastern. Both will be recorded and available for viewing later.

FEMA IPAWS Program Management Office plans to conduct a nationwide IPAWS test using EAS once pending changes in FCC EAS testing rules are in effect. Public comments on proposed changes to the EAS system were due to the commission last summer. Broadcasters, device manufacturers and others had suggested using the NPT event code for national level EAS tests.