ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Mike Langner sounds like a radio programmer when he talks about the Emergency Alert System — he says it’s all about the content.
Langner, chair of the New Mexico State Emergency Communications Committee, has been campaigning for improved content quality in EAS alert messages ever since AMBER Alerts started appearing in the early 2000s.
A retired broadcast engineer and technical consultant to the New Mexico Broadcasters Association, he has found a solution to the problem with the help of the New Mexico Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management or DHSEM. He calls the result a “true public-private partnership.”
The FCC has released its preliminary report on the Hawaii false alert. The story now seems to be the employee thought there was a missile coming.
Craig Fugate, Former FEMA Administrator
The false ballistic missile warning on Jan. 13 in Hawaii has raised important questions about America’s emergency alerting apparatus and the best practices for keeping citizens informed during times of crisis. Currently, Hawaiian public safety officials, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Federal Communications Commission and Congress are reviewing what went wrong and how to prevent mistakes in the future.
This incident also offers an opportunity for everyone to review their own emergency preparedness plans. As we saw last year during the natural disasters that wrought havoc across the country – from hurricanes flooding major cities to devastating wildfires to tornado outbreaks – it is imperative that Americans prepare themselves, their families and their homes so they are ready if the worst happens.
Praise for broadcasters, and pressing questions about how things could have gone so wrong in Hawaii dominated the first of what could be several congressional hearings into the Emergency Alert System. Lawmakers’ interest in EAS was piqued by this month’s false alert that warned Hawaiians of an impending missile attack. “The people of Hawaii may be relieved about the false alarm, but they’re also angry,” Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) said during a Senate Commerce Committee hearing on Thursday. “Human and bureaucratic errors made the crisis worse, but there are also inherent flaws in the system itself,” he added.
This email is to follow up on our listserv discussions in October on the Multilingual EAS reports that broadcasters were required to file with their state SECC by November 6, and which SECCs must then collate and summarize in reports to be filed with the FCC in early May. You may recall that MMTC appealed the FCC’s decision to gather more information through the May 2016 SECC reports rather than immediately imposing a requirement on broadcasters to create multilingual EAS alerts. The MMTC lost that appeal and has now asked for en banc review by the DC Circuit, arguing once again that broadcasters should be required to create and transmit multilingual EAS alerts when an English-language alert is received.
The FCC today released a copy of its court filing in the proceeding opposing MMTC’s request. You can read it here: https://apps.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DOC-348831A1.pdf While the FCC’s filing seems quite skeptical of imposing translating and other multilingual EAS obligations on broadcasters (that’s the good news), of note for those of you working with your SECC (or who are the SECC) is the FCC’s defense of its information-gathering efforts to the court. Specifically, the FCC noted that:
MMTC, joined by Judge Millett, insist that the Commission’s decision to “request the same information it had previously sought” is arbitrary. But the agency’s prior requests sought the voluntary submission of information, and the responses turned out to be incomplete. Under the Commission’s new rule, EAS Participants are required to submit reports describing their current and future plans to implement multilingual alerting. These reports will provide the agency for the first time a comprehensive record of what broadcasters are doing to communicate emergency alerts to non-English speakers, and will help inform ‘future Commission or federal action, if appropriate’.”
Obviously the FCC is putting a lot of emphasis on its expectation that all stations will have provided this information to their state SECC, and that the FCC will be receiving in May “a comprehensive record of what broadcasters are doing to communicate emergency alerts to non-English speakers.”
While May is still several months away, I know a number of you have seen at least a draft of your state’s report. In order to assist the FCC in fending off efforts to convert broadcasters from passive EAS distributors to multilingual EAS content creators and translators, those reports need to live up to the FCC’s court claims as much as possible.
As a result, it is in every SBA’s interest to ensure that the SECC report for your state is as impressively comprehensive as possible. You may not be able to get all your stations to submit the info to their SECC, but you can at least make sure that the reports are as polished and comprehensive as possible given what info you do have. Stated differently, a report that starts out with “only 15% of stations submitted info” and ends with “none of those that responded had anything to say about current or planned multilingual EAS alerts” is not putting broadcasters’ best foot forward. While SECCs may be stuck with the response/facts they received, making the reports as professional, polished, and positive as possible will strengthen the FCC’s hand in resisting calls to turn broadcasters into EAS translation services. This will not only avoid additional burdens on broadcasters, but will prevent alerting delays and the risk of stations making very consequential mistakes in multiple languages during an emergency.
Please do what you can in your state to prevent that from happening.
NAB conference examines broadcasters’ responsibilities during natural disasters
Michael Balderston, Radio World
The U.S. was rocked by natural disasters in 2017, resulting in a record $16 billion in losses. From a trio of hurricanes to the biggest wildfire in modern California history, broadcasters covered it all providing vital information to viewers pre-, during and post-event. How the industry covered these events and the lessons learned from the past year were the key areas of focus during NAB’s “Eye of the Storm: Broadcasters’ Role in Emergencies” conference this week.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai keynoted the event, noting broadcasters’ role in promoting public safety is long and storied. “Whenever disaster strikes, audiences will turn to broadcasters because they trust the broadcasters will help them,” the chairman said. He highlighted three areas that are key in continuing to develop that trust: resiliency, alerting and Next Gen TV, where development of new services and applications will further benefit consumers during these emergencies.
John Eggerton, Broadcasting & Cable
FCC chairman Ajit Pai said Thursday (Jan. 18) that FCC staffers are currently "on the ground" in Hawaii gathering info on the erroneous ballistic missile warning issued by state officials over the weekend.
The warning was relayed by broadcasters as well as via cell phones.
Pai, in a speech kicking off a forum on broadcast emergency communications at the National Association of Broadcasters headquarters in D.C., said that those investigators were looking to find out 1) how it happened; 2) why it took 38 minutes to for the state to issue a correction and, 3) how to make sure it never happens again.
Pai made it clear he was not attacking the messenger.
Hawaii Association of Broadcasters president Chris Leonard says last weekend’s mistaken EAS message about an incoming missile attack should be a wake-up call for broadcasters and emergency management agencies everywhere. While the alert was bogus, how broadcasters reacted is earning praise. "In times of crisis, broadcasters stand on the front lines," FCC commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said.
Alert infrastructure comes under fresh scrutiny after Hawaii`s rude wakeup
Susan Ashworth, Radio World
Questions are being asked all across the country`s communications landscape as regulators, emergency managers and broadcasters attempt to figure out how a false emergency alert was sent out to residences of Hawaii through the IPAWS EAS and WEA systems.
The false alert was sent to smartphones and delivered via TV and radio at 8:05 a.m. local time on Saturday, warning residents that a ballistic missile was inbound to Hawaii. The emergency all-caps alert reiterated the danger by adding "This is Not a Drill." All residents were warned to seek immediate shelter.
Will be showcasing its tech at CES
John Eggerton, Broadcasting & Cable
With the Dec. 28 deadline for opting in to the state plan for FirstNet, the interoperable public service network went 50 for 50, with California coming in under the wire. California Gov. Jerry Brown made the announcement Dec. 28.
Two territories and the District of Columbia have also opted in. That leaves three territories that have yet to make a decision, but they have until March 12.
The Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council (MMTC) is asking the full D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to review an October ruling that upheld a decision by the Federal Communications Commission not to require that stations transmit multilingual Emergency Alert System messages. MMTC argues a three-judge panel “issued an erroneous decision” when it concluded the FCC was within its authority by opting to “ignore common-sense proposals aimed at saving lives,” calling it “a case of exceptional importance raising significant public safety issues.”
When the FCC wrapped a multiyear rulemaking proceeding in March, the agency decided that that radio and television stations wouldn’t be required to offer EAS messages in languages other than English. The FCC said it would be “difficult if not impossible to do” within the existing emergency alerting architecture. Instead, the Commission decided “voluntary arrangements” among EAS participants are currently sufficient to reach local communities. The agency did however require broadcasters to begin reporting all the steps—if any—that they take to distribute alerts in other languages. Unhappy with that outcome, MMTC filed a legal challenge.
James Careless, RadioWorld
Mainland broadcasters help devastated stations and listeners on storm-struck island
Many weeks after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico’s infrastructure, radio broadcasters there were struggling to get and keep their signals in air.
Most of the AM/FM stations in service were relying on diesel generators for electricity, because the island’s storm-ravaged power grid was still in terrible shape.
Other stations were just too damaged to get back on air without substantial reconstruction, and that’s a problem since money is in short supply in Puerto Rico these days. Due to the devastation, “there’s no business for radio stations, and when there’s no business there’s no money,” said Jose Ribas Dominicci, executive director of the Puerto Rico Radio Broadcasters Association.
Emergency communications are a complex topic, and an arena filled with special interests
The Blue Alert system was designed to give law enforcement the means to speed the apprehension of violent criminals who kill or seriously injure local, state or federal law enforcement officers. At the request of the Justice Department, the FCC is now considering the creation of a designated Blue Alert “event code” that will be disseminated by the EAS system.
Long before anyone figured out that broadcasting could be entertaining, informative or that it could be financed by advertisers (in fact, before radio could speak and TV see) broadcasting’s most obvious and highest purpose was front and center: saving lives and property. Everything else we do, good or evil, pales in comparison. If we don’t do this, we have no legitimate reason to exist and “our” spectrum should be given away to unlicensed services, mobile alerting, and all those IoT devices and things that do good.
John Eggerton, Broadcasting & Cable
Make that 33 FirstNet opt-ins.
According to both FirstNet and its partner in the national emergency response broadband network, AT&T, Georgia is the 33rd state or territory to opt in to the system.
Georgia Governor Nathan Deal accepted the FirstNet has signed up for the plan.
That follows North Carolina Nov. 15.
FCC Chairman’s two-day visit included stops to tower sites and meetings with local leaders.
WASHINGTON—More than a month after Hurricane Maria ripped through Puerto Rico, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai made a two-day visit to the island to understand the recovery efforts still in progress. After speaking with local officials and visiting a number of impacted sites, Pai recognized the challenges that Puerto Rico and its residents still face.
According to a summary issued by the commission, during his trip Pai visited various parts of San Juan and towns along the northeast Puerto Rico coast; he inspected a tower site and associated infrastructure in El Yunque National Forest; met with President Sandra Torres López and Associate Member Alexandra Fernández Navarro of the Telecommunications Regulatory Board; and attended a briefing hosted by FEMA.
Sens. Kamala Harris and Dianne Feinstein want answers from the FCC.
Mollie Reilly, Huffington Post
SAN FRANCISCO ― As thousands of Northern California residents who evacuated last week amid wildfires begin to return home, the state’s U.S. senators want answers to why wireless emergency alerts failed during the deadly blazes.
Craig Fugate served as President Barack Obama’s FEMA Administrator from May 2009 to January 2017. Before that he was Florida Governor Jeb Bush’s Emergency Management Director from 2001 to 2009. Over the weekend, Fugate penned an op-ed piece regarding the recent controversy between the radio industry and Apple.
More than two-dozen radio stations are silent as FCC chief Ajit Pai says there have been “significant outages” left in the wake of Hurricane Irma. As the now-tropical storm makes its way deeper into the southeast, the FCC has expanded its Disaster Information Reporting System to 18 counties in Georgia and three in Alabama.
Issie Lapowsky, Wired
The damage done by Hurricane Harvey is, as the National Weather Service, tweeted ominously over the weekend, “unknown & beyond anything experienced.” Rain continues to fall over the water-soaked region of Southeast Texas where the category 4 hurricane made landfall Friday night. It’s a living nightmare already drawing comparisons to Hurricane Katrina.
One comparison offers a glimmer of hope amid the devastation: Communications networks have held much better. While connectivity was almost completely lost in Rockport, Texas, which was hit hardest by the storm, the Federal Communications Commission says just 4 percent of the 7,804 cell sites in Harvey’s path were wiped out, affecting 148,565 people. By contrast, more than 1,000 cell sites were knocked out during Katrina, preventing millions of calls from going through, according to a post-Katrina FCC report.
Paul McLane, Radio World
U.S. radio and TV stations were supposed to have filled out a particular form by now in advance of September’s national EAS test. But the FCC is extending the deadline because of Harvey.
“We are aware that some EAS Participants are currently responding to the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey,” the commission posted on its EAS Test Reporting System web page.
As Tropical Storm Harvey continued to pound Texas on Sunday – flooding interstates and effectively shutting Houston down – local broadcasters kept residents informed with essential info, even while sustaining damage to facilities, station vehicles and employee homes. At least nine stations have been knocked off the air in the region, according to the FCC. And with the torrential rain expected to continue through Friday, broadcasters are battening down the hatches for more rough days ahead.
Eddie Martiny, president of iHeartMedia’s Houston Region, said local staff has been broadcasting in long form nonstop since 8am Friday, providing listeners with up-to-date info and emergency resources. But the most destructive storm to strike the U.S. homeland since Superstorm Sandy in 2012 also caused the group to lose a station vehicle while water damage to the transmitter of talk KPRC (950) took the station off the air. As of Sunday, iHeart continued to broadcast from five stations in the flood-ravaged market.
The wind from HURRICANE HARVEY is over -- but the rain continues in record amounts and continues to make life a wet hell for residents of HOUSTON and the GULF REGION.
ALL ACCESS reached out to station groups for input on how they were handling this widespread emergency and got lots of feedback:
iHEARTMEDIA/HOUSTON Pres. EDDIE MARTINY remarked, "I have never seen rain like I have witnessed over the last three days, and I remind you, I am from NEW ORLEANS. Over 30 inches so far and expecting at least another 30 inches in the next three days. The city of HOUSTON is shut down with all major interstates flooded.
The Bureau also announces the release of a revised EAS Operating Handbook. A copy of the Handbook must be located at normal duty positions or EAS equipment locations when an operator is required to be on duty and be immediately available to staff responsible for administering EAS tests.
The Handbook will supersede all other EAS Handbooks, and must be in place in time for the 2017 nationwide EAS test. The Handbook's format allows each EAS Participant to enter data specific to their own configuration, tailoring the operational steps outlined in the manual for local relevance. A writable PDF version of the Handbook can be found on the Bureau's web site at https://www.fcc.gov/general/eas-test-reporting-system.
Emily Reigart, TV Technology
Intended to help small businesses, nonprofits and small governmental jurisdictions comply with rules
WASHINGTON—To help small businesses, nonprofits and small governmental jurisdictions comply with its latest EAS rules, the Federal Communications Commission has released the "Small Entity Compliance Guide Review of the Emergency Alert System."
Last year, the commission adopted an order resolving a petition filed years before by the Independent Spanish Broadcasters Association, Office of Communication of the United Church of Christ Inc. and Minority Media and Telecommunications Council. It revised Part 11 EAS regulations to establish certain reporting requirements applicable to EAS participants, including radio stations, and to State Emergency Communications Committees.
The alert occurred at 12:25am and included the message: “A broadcast station or cable system has issued a civil danger warning for the following counties/areas: Guam, Guam; at 12:25am on Aug. 15, 2017 effective until 12:40am.”
The Offices of Guam Homeland Security and Civil Defense (GHS/OCD), along with the Mariana Regional Fusion Control (MFRC) said there was no change in the threat levels for the island territory and the test was unscheduled and an error. They added that they are working with federal and military partners to continue to monitor the recent events surrounding North Korea and threats aimed at the island territory.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), in collaboration with the FCC, will conduct a nationwide test of the EAS on September 27, 2017 at 2:20 PM EDT. If conditions on the day of the test require the rescheduling of the test, a secondary test date is scheduled for October 4, 2017.
All EAS Participants must complete the 2017 ETRS Form One on or before August 28, 2017. Each EAS Participant should file a separate copy of Form One for each of its EAS decoders, EAS encoders, and units combining such decoder and encoder functions.
On or before 11:59 p.m., September 27, 2017, EAS Participants must submit any updates or corrections to their 2017 Form One filings and must file the “day of test” information sought by ETRS Form Two.
On or before November 13, 2017, EAS Participants must file the detailed post-test data sought by ETRS Form Three.
Susan Ashworth, TV Technology
WASHINGTON—To ensure the nation continues to adopt the best standards and operating procedures when it comes to emergency alerting, the Federal Emergency Management Agency recently announced the names of 31 individuals that will be serving on the IPAWS subcommittee, which is part of FEMA’s National Advisory Council.
The first IPAWS subcommittee meeting will be held Aug. 8 and 9 in Washington, and will meet up to four times per year (two in person and two by video conferencing).
Among the subcommittee’s responsibilities are providing recommendations for new alerting protocols and operating procedures for the nation’s public alert and warning system, as well as submitting a recommendation report on the overall system to the NAC. Any subcommittee report will be submitted to other government agencies, including the House and Senate committees on homeland security.
(New procedures require all filers to register in the FCC’s updated CORES system)
On June 26, 2017, the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau (PSHSB) of the Federal Communications Commission released instructions as to how Emergency Alert System (EAS) Participants must register for access to the 2017 EAS Test Reporting System (ETRS). The PSHSB also stated in its Public Notice that it will release a further notice in July announcing the opening of the 2017 ETRS, and the date by which EAS Participants must file their EAS reporting data.
The Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau of the FCC on Friday released its official report on the Sept. 28, 2016 Nationwide EAS Test. Was it a success?
Over 20,000 broadcasters, cable operators, and other EAS Participants participated in the 2016 Nationwide EAS Test, totaling 95% of EAS Participants — a 25% improvement over the 2011 test.
The vast majority of these EAS Participants received and retransmitted the National Periodic Test (NPT).
The results further show that the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) version of the alert delivered superior digital sound and successfully delivered non-English alerts to those EAS Participants that wished to distribute them.
Dallas city officials said Saturday that a hacker is to blame for setting off all the city's 156 emergency outdoor sirens, which wailed for an hour and half overnight.
Rocky Vaz, director of the city's Office of Emergency Management, said engineers determined an unidentified hacker somewhere in the Dallas area was responsible, but has not been tracked down.
The hacker tricked the system to send repeat signals activating each siren 60 times during the night, Vaz said. The sirens started sounding at 11:42 p.m. Friday and continued until 1:17 a.m. Saturday.
Mary Collins, TV Newscheck
While all businesses must be vigilant, media companies seem to be in the crosshairs for cyberattacks lately. In the past few months alone, attackers have hacked into several broadcasters’ audio streaming devices as well as perpetrating other types of cyber vandalism. So what can media companies do to minimize the costs of a cyberattack, which include damage to the organization’s reputation? Here are six suggestions from cybersecurity experts.
A few years ago, MFM was hit by a crypto virus. I’m embarrassed to admit that it came in through my computer — the source was a flash drive containing a speaker’s presentation. The good news is that we use a third-party IT company that continuously monitors our network and we have nightly cloud backups. MFM was back up and running within a few hours; our data loss was minimal.
While all businesses must be vigilant, media companies seem to be in the crosshairs for cyberattacks lately. In the past few months alone, attackers have hacked into several broadcasters’ audio streaming devices to transmit what the FCC described as “potentially offensive or indecent material to the public.” In addition, Yahoo was hit with an SEC investigation focused on whether it should have notified investors sooner about its two major data breaches.
Piling onto these high profile incidents are warnings about W2 phishing attacks targeting employee data and a dramatic rise in the number of ransomeware attacks on American businesses. Experian is also cautioning about the potential of an increase in "aftershock" breaches — unauthorized logins that result from subsequent sales of customer data on the dark web.
Broadcasters across the country participated in and observed the second ever Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) National Test (INT) on Wednesday, September 28th, 2016. The test demonstrated the progress made and evolution of the Emergency Alert System (EAS) since the previous (and first ever) national test in 2011. Using feedback from broadcasters and the emergency management community, IPAWS plans to build on the success of the 2016 test to prepare and plan for more annual national tests.
Alfred "Al" Kenyon, INT Technical Lead, and Austin Randazzo of the FCC's Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau will present a review of notable observations from the 2016 IPAWS EAS Test. This presentation will include a discussion of successes and areas for improvement, audio samples from the test, maps of successful test distribution pathways, as well as results reported from the FCC EAS Test Reporting System. Mr. Kenyon and Mr. Randazzo will also discuss the test's implications and applications for local and state EAS plans and broadcasters' roles in helping shape those plans. The 2016 INT was not a one and done event. The test was just the beginning of a regular series of national IPAWS EAS tests, which will be conducted on an annual basis. This presentation will publically set the framework for the 2017 INT and beyond.