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Next Regional Alert Test Is a Biggie

Feb. 24 test will take place while many broadcast leaders are in D.C.

The next IPAWS/EAS regional test will take place on Feb. 24 and it is a big one: 22 states, two territories and the District of Columbia — some 10,000 broadcast EAS participants, not counting cable operators.

It also will take place while many broadcasters are in the nation’s capital for an NAB State Leadership Conference.

The test area affected includes not only much of the populous New York/New Jersey metroplex but also “Tornado Alley” states of the mid-west and Gulf Coast hurricane states. FEMA officials have been contacting state broadcast association executives and state emergency communications committee chairs to put the word out, and plans are developing for preparatory webinars.

One insider says a large-scale alerting test that includes the D.C. area while broadcasters are in DC “could illustrate and reinforce the unique ability of broadcast to serve during emergencies.”

Earlier regional FEMA tests were performed first in West Virginia, then in a north-south string of states from Michigan to Tennessee, followed by a six-state test in New England and, most recently, a group consisting of four southwestern states and two north central states.

The Feb. 24 group is Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, D.C., Florida, 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 and Virginia.

The test will take place Wednesday, Feb. 24 at 2:20 p.m. ET/1:20 p.m. CT. The message will use the National Periodic Test (NPT) event code with an audio message that sounds much like a typical Required Monthly Test text.

FEMA works with state broadcast and cable associations to encourage EAS participants to set their EAS devices to immediately forward an incoming NPT message. As in the past, they are planning webinars for both managers and engineers. Participation in the IPAWS test is voluntary.

“We do not propose that the NPT replace any scheduled RMT or RWT messages,” FEMA’s IPAWS National Test Technical Lead Al Kenyon wrote in a memo to broadcast executives. “In doing so, we eliminate Enforcement Bureau action should a volunteer test participant experience a problem relaying the test message. By participating in this exercise broadcasters and cable operators can confirm how their systems will respond to an NPT ahead of the recently released testing rules. From experience we know that many television operations face significant challenges when it comes to audio insertion, program muting or ducking and scroll generation and placement on main and digital sub-channels. This is an opportunity for EAS Participants to observe exactly how their equipment performs prior to mandatory participation in the next national IPAWS/EAS test currently scheduled for early December 2016.”

Kenyon encouraged broadcasters with questions to contact him at [email protected]. Radio World will report details of the webinars when available.

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