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The daisy chain still mostly works to disseminate national Emergency Alert System messages. That`s according to a preliminary report from the Federal Communications Commission which says more than eight in ten radio stations received and retransmitted the test alert, which was sent Aug. 7 as part of a nationwide activation.

The FCC says 13,940 broadcast radio stations participated in the national EAS test. Of those, 84.5% or 11,782 stations received the test message sent using only the daisy-chain system that relays an alert from one broadcast station to another using a network of primary stations. While the Federal Emergency Management Agency now also has the internet and satellite-delivered mechanism to beam EAS alerts to stations, this year`s focus on the daisy chain was designed to show whether it could serve as a reliable and effective failsafe during a national emergency. The preliminary report doesn`t address that question, however it says the data shows that across all media - including radio, television and cable and satellite TV - the total number of stations that received the test alert was 84.3% of those that participated.



Inside Radio

A later than expected release of a technical update to Emergency Alert System (EAS) hardware used by broadcasters has led the Federal Communications Commission to give stations more time to install the software without running afoul of its rules. Stations were to have had the update installed by Friday, Nov. 8. But the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau will give an extra 60 days on the clock, meaning the updates need to be in place by Jan. 7, 2020.

The software update concerns how EAS equipment validates Common Alerting Protocol (CAP)-formatted alerts which are distributed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency before they are relayed to the public. That validation process requires that a station’s equipment be configured so that any CAP-formatted alert that doesn’t include a valid digital signature is rejected. It does that by looking at the message received and the digital signature created by the certificate included in the alert. The equipment checks to be sure the certificate matches one of the trusted sources stored in the EAS unit. The pressing issue has come into play since FEMA said one of the certificates it has issued for the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS), that has been installed in all EAS devices, is set to expire Nov. 8.



The new TLS protocol update needed before November 8

It’s time for broadcasters to confirm that their stations are up and running with the latest in EAS updates.

As it stands today, EAS participants are required to not only receive Common Alert Protocol messages from IPAWS but also configure their systems to reject all CAP-formatted EAS messages that include an invalid digital signature. Now, an effort to maintain compliance with commonly accepted security standards, FEMA is also taking the next step of removing support for older methods by requiring the use of an updated TLS 1.2 protocol to access FEMA’s IPAWS server, said Sage Alerting Systems and the Society of Broadcast Engineers. TLS, or Transport Layer Security, is cryptographic protocol providing communications security over networks and is often used for internet communications.

To acquire and verify IPAWS CAP alerts, a broadcaster’s EAS alerting equipment must be upgraded with the TLS 1.2 update prior to Nov. 8, 2019.




The Federal Communications Commission’s Enforcement Bureau has settled with Meruelo Radio Holdings for misusing Emergency Alert System (EAS) tones on the company’s classic Hip-Hop simulcast on KDAY Los Angeles and KDEY Riverside. ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” AMC’s “The Walking Dead” and Discovery’s “Lone Star Law” were also part of the settlements for airing actual or simulated EAS or Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) tones. The combined settlement amount was $300,000 in civil penalties.



Broadcasters' Desktop Resource

Well, the 2019 NPT came. Perhaps the best way to comment is that there is a lot work to do with the PEP (PEP Map is here) and daisy-chain - the way the EAS works when the Internet is down. Reports from Test Day noted quite a few stations reporting clean audio, and forwarded the test. However, other reports  noted a number of issues:




Nearly one year after the Federal Communications Commission revised the rule book that governs emergency alerts, the updates have finally taken effect. The Office of Management and Budget has approved the FCC to collect information on state Emergency Alert System plans for the next three years and, with publication of that approval last week in the Federal Register, the revisions impacting radio and television stations also go into effect.

The most significant move is designed to correct some of the flaws in the system exposed by the false missile alert in Hawaii last year. The FCC adopted an order that gives any EAS participant, including any radio and TV stations, up to 24 hours to report to the FCC’s operation center after it’s discovered they transmitted or sent a false alert to the public.



WASHINGTON, July 24, 2019—FEMA, in coordination with the Federal Communications Commission, will conduct a nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System (EAS) on Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2019.



Original deadline was Wednesday, July 3

Broadcasters who may not have met last week’s July 3 deadline for filing their ETRS Form One for the upcoming nationwide National Periodic Test of the emergency alert system are still able to file late, though the FCC’s ETRS team said in an email correspondence that any late filings “should be done right away.”

All EAS participants are required to renew their identifying information annually via the ETRS Form One, with a separate filing for each EAS decoder, encoder or units that combine decoder and encoder functions.



EAS Participants are reminded of the FCC requirement to update the information on Form One of the EAS Test Reporting System (ETRS). This must be completed before July 3rd, 2019. Filers must use their registered FCC Username that is associated with the FCC Registration Numbers (FRNs) for which they will file.

The ETRS form one is to prepare for the National EAS Test (NPT) scheduled for August 7th, 2019. It will be fed via the Primary Entry Point (PEP) network at 2:20 PM (Eastern Daylight Time). It will not be fed on the IPAWS network.



Lauren Lynch Flick, Comm Law Blog

Last week, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) formally notified the FCC that FEMA has scheduled the next nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System (EAS) for August 7, 2019 at 2:20 p.m.  FEMA states that this year’s test will differ from the nationwide tests that have been conducted over the past several years in that it will be issued through the National Public Warning System, composed of FEMA-designated Primary Entry Point facilities, to test the readiness of the EAS to function in the absence of Internet connectivity.

In other words, the August test is dependent on the ability of EAS to operate without a ‘net, reaching EAS Participants solely by over-the-air means. The initial report from FEMA and the FCC following the 2018 Nationwide EAS Test noted that almost 60% of participants received the test announcement first via the Internet-oriented Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS), a significant increase from 41.9% in 2017.



Concludes latest test shows improvement, makes recommendations.

Randy J. Stine, TV Technology

WASHINGTON—The FCC has spent the last six months unpacking what it learned from the most recent nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System. Now the issues and complications EAS participants experienced have come into focus.

The FCC has detailed its findings on how well the system worked in a new report released earlier this week.

Inadequate audio quality, out of date equipment software and alerting source issues were the most common problems reported by radio stations, TV stations and cable providers following the October 2018 test, according to the government agency charged with oversight of EAS.



A Report from the FEMA National Advisory Council

The IPAWS Modernization Act of 2015 (Public Law 114-143) required FEMA to establish a NAC IPAWS Subcommittee with the goal of enasuring that the public alert and warning system:

  1. Incorporates multiple communication technologies;
  2. Adapts to and incorporates future technologies for communicating directly with the public;
  3. Provides alerts to the largest portion of the affected population which includes nonresident visitors and tourists, individuals with disabilities, access and functional needs; individuals with limited English proficiency; and improves the ability of remote areas to receive alerts
  4. Enchances community preparedness and response through local and regional public and private partnerships;
  5. Reaches the greatest number of people through redendanyt alert mechanisms; and
  6. Protects individual privacy.