FEMA’s Integrated Public Alert & Warning System office is planning a non-technical Webinar for station managers, owners, state emergency officials and others about its next regional EAS test. FEMA IPAWS has been conducting regional testing using the new National Periodic Test (NPT) event code.
This is a series of steps toward the next national EAS test, now planned for December 2016. Participation in the regional tests is a chance for stations to confirm how their systems will respond to an NPT. “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,” wrote FEMA IPAWS National Test Lead Al Kenyon in a note to State Broadcast Association execs and the State Emergency Communications Committee chairs that was obtained by RBR+TVBR.
The Webinar is slated for Jan. 20 at 2 p.m. Eastern (http://tinyurl.com/j995rwx).
FEMA IPAWS is planning several technical webinars and one in Spanish as well.
The next regional test, scheduled for February 24, covers 22 states, from Nebraska to New York to Florida to Texas including all states in between that have not participated in previous testing plus two territories and the District of Columbia. Those are: Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Texas, U.S. Virgin Islands and Virginia.
The originating test message is set to go out at 2:20 p.m. Eastern. The test message will be identical to that sent in December with both English and Spanish text and spoken word available. FEMA is working with state broadcast associations and the National Cable Television Association to encourage stations and cable systems in these specific areas to set their EAS encoders/decoders to immediately forward and incoming NPT message. “The test itself will not require any action on the part of a station beyond configuring their EAS device well ahead of the test date; from that point on it should flow through automatically,” according to Kenyon. “IPAWS EAS origination enables television stations to automatically display the full message text in addition to the normal scrolling EAS message.
RBR+TVBR observation: The reason the FCC recently added a national “header” code for the EAS messages was because in 2011 during the first national EAS test, many station devices did not recognize the District of Columbia header used in the originating message. Managers and owners should either keep abreast of EAS developments themselves or make sure their engineers do, because while some EAS participation is voluntary, it is mandatory at the national level.