National EAS test results

Mixed, at least in my neck of the woods.  I was stationed at a LP-1 station which was monitoring a PEP station directly.  On my end, the test went fine without intervention. Please excuse the cellphone video, I am used to my good camera, which I left at home.

Many others in the New York area had problems.  Stations with newer SAGE (Blue front) CAP capable EAS ENDECS had issues, even the ones that were also monitoring the PEP stations directly.

Many of those stations broadcast the header tones and about 10 seconds of audio.  The audio abruptly stops and is followed by twenty seconds of dead air followed by the EOM.  I can speculate that the SAGE EAS units should be checked for proper configuration and be tested back to back while receiving duplicate messages from different sources spaced apart by ten seconds.

Several stations downstream from the LP-1 stations did not receive anything at all.  Others received the alert tones but no audio, some had high levels of background noise, thirty seconds of static, audio cut off, etc.  All in all, most would look at this and say “Thank God it wasn’t a real emergency.”  Silver lining: For all those that are concerned that the federal government will attempt to diabolically take over the entire broadcast spectrum and say evil things; Doh! foiled again.

National EAS Test Video

Video available by youtube, courtesy of Radio Magazine:

It is a pretty good simulation of what will happen on November 9th.   The script used is not the actual script that will be used for the national test.

After the test, the video shows how to bail out of the national test in the event that a valid EAN is not received.  This is important information, as this particular failure has occurred many times in the past.  If the LP-1 or PEP station that transmitted the test fails to send a valid EOM, the EAS unit will continue to transmit that station’s programming indefinitely.  If the LP-1 or PEP station resumes regular programming while the EAS unit is relaying their programming over the air, that would be a good indication that the LP-1 or PEP station has failed to send a valid EOM.

Update: Paper work is required.

Less than one month until the Coordinated National EAS test

November 9, 2011 at 2pm EST, FEMA will be testing EAS with it’s first ever national level test.  To promote that event, they have released a twenty eight page “tool kit,” (near the bottom of the page) designed to help everyone get through the test.  It should be interesting.  According to FEMA:

The nationwide EAS Test is not a pass or fail measure, nor will it specifically test Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) compliant equipment (although CAP compliant equipment should pass the Emergency Action Notification [EAN] live-code in the same manner as legacy EAS equipment).

They will release a Emergency Action Notification (EAN) to all the Primary Entry Point (PEP) stations, which should then flow down stream through all the radio, television, cable systems, and direct broadcast satellite systems.  The test should last about two minutes and will conclude with a standard EOM.

I doubt very much it will sound like this:

That is WHEN, Syracuse, NY singing EBS test.  A bit of originality there. WHEN played this for their weekly EBS test for the better part of the 70’s.  Naturally, the FCC found out about it and told them to stop.  Shame, really, it is kind of catchy.

If you have some spare time, download the tool kit and study up for the test.

The Nationwide Coordinated EAS test

This is a test, you have been warned.  The FCC has scheduled the first nationwide mandatory EAS test for November 9th, 2011 at 2pm EST (1900 UTC).  According to James A. Barnett, Jr., Chief, Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau:

For the test, FEMA will trigger the EAS “cascade” architecture by transmitting the EAS code used for national level emergencies to the first level of broadcast stations in the national-level of the EAS, which in turn will rebroadcast the alert to the general public, as well as to the next level of EAS participants monitoring them. This should continue through all levels of the system until the alert has been distributed throughout the entire county.

Since this date is beyond the CAP deadline of September 30, 2011, it seems like CAP would be the distribution method, but there is not anything I can find to verify that.  The above paragraph makes it sound like the PEP system might be used.

This will be an interesting evolution for a number of reasons.  If the EAS system fails operate as planned after giving five months warning for a nationwide test, it would point toward a fundamental design flaw in the system.  A more realistic test of the EAS system would involve perhaps one hours notice and then trigger the event.  Notice should be given so that broadcast station personal can answer questions from the listening and viewing public.

Then there is the EAS  EAN protocol itself.  There are many that feel, rightly or wrongly, that the federal government should not be able to take control of privately owned broadcast stations and cable systems for any reason.  The way that the EAS encoder/decoder units are now required to be wired into the audio air chain means it would be very hard to override any mandatory alert, such as an EAN, if there were a reason to do that.  There have been several instances of false alerts, WGN-AM being the most recent, where programming on down stream broadcast and cable systems were disrupted for several minutes.

So, save the date.  It will no doubt be interesting to see how this all works.