- October 4, 2018 at 11:40 am #106794
Statement of REC Networks: Today’s test for emergency alerting at the national (Presidential) level:
First of all, to be clear; that in this statement, I am not taking any position on President Donald J. Trump; neither for or against. What I am taking a position on is the trivializing of today’s nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System and Wireless Emergency Alert test.
In the past few years, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in cooperation with the FCC has developed the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS). This system has two primary functions, it allows public agencies from the local level to the federal level to originate alerts. These alerts are then pushed to other users who will receive these alerts for rebroadcast to the public. The latter includes potential for broadcast stations, standalone devices, video gaming consoles, websites and wireless phones and tablets to receive data that is aggregated from IPAWS for distribution to the public.
For decades, going back to the old CONELRAD system (and some have even said, before that), there has been a method for the federal government at the level of the Executive Branch (i.e. the Presidential level) to access our radio and television broadcast stations for the dissemination of emergency information of federal importance. These types of warnings have been referred to as “Presidential Alerts” because they can allow the President to address the nation within 10 minutes during a national emergency.
In this modern age of social media, our Nation’s leadership has embraced this medium, especially Twitter in order to get non-critical messages out to millions of “followers” including many U.S. citizens. Both President Trump and former President Obama have used Twitter. Both Presidents have been criticized for the content of their tweets.
In the past few months, there have been many in the media (mainstream and niche) and on social media who have rode this dangerous wave of over-analyzing the codified terminology “Presidential Alert” to trivialize the importance of today’s test. There have been questions raised on whether the President will break protocol and use the system to send messages of a non-critical national security/civil defense nature (i.e. for political gain). Today is not the first nationwide test for emergency alerts, but it is the first for them being delivered through wireless devices. Instead of trying to be aware of the importance of this system, many have said they would shut off their phones because they “don’t want to hear from the President”.
Again, I am not taking a position on the policies, nor conduct of our current President, nor the previous President; I am just stating the facts regarding the reception to today’s emergency alert test.
In 2017, less than 50% of all licensed LPFM stations participated in the previous test (down from the previous year). LPFM needs to improve that this year. All broadcast stations, especially LPFM stations, need to make sure that they have Form One already submitted and Form Two submitted by end of day today after the conclusion of the test and to submit Form Three by mid-November.
Since the 1950s, the President of the United States has had access to every American through the primary method of electronic media that they monitor. For decades, this meant radio and television but now, it also means other methods that many Americans use for monitoring electronic media, mainly wireless mobile devices.
This is a test, this is only a test. Hopefully, it will never be more than a test. But if it ever was, then I will be glad its there. Let’s not trivialize this, nor any future tests over some kind of political speculation. This goes for both sides of the aisle. IPAWS, EAS and WEA should not be political footballs in any way. They are an important part of our Nation’s infrastructure. Let’s treat it that way.
- October 4, 2018 at 1:26 pm #106799
Voice to the World Goes Unheard by Many
Appreciate this subject coming under discussion.
I was listening to the Thom Hartman Show when the Test came in on some device he had, it was a loud and definite buzzy sound. But I was hearing a day old re-broadcast which means on the day of the Test I missed it entirely.
It did not come in over my computer browser or by email. My cordless land-line phone was silent. There were no outdoor sirens.
Will it matter? When something so important that the greater public needs to be notified it might be the last few minutes of life as we know it. It might be better not to know.
- October 5, 2018 at 7:26 am #106802
Part 15 Stations Seeking to Participate
Both personally and as a radio station I and KDX would like to be included somehow in receiving IPAWS public alerts.
Looking into the matter we visited the IPAWS website.
After reading some of this it became essential that I take an emergency nap.
If any other readers see a means of participating please explain it for us.
- October 5, 2018 at 7:36 am #106803
If something happens like a major nuclear launch by Russia and the US like in that episode of Madam Secretary would it do any good to know beforehand? What will you do about it anyway?
All radios used to have markings on the dial where you would turn to for info if a national emergency.
As for flashing the warning in red across the TV it does no good if you aren’t watching.
- October 5, 2018 at 11:53 am #106809
Yes, I too knew people who were going to shut off their phones because they didn’t want any message from the President. These people are stupid and uniformed.
The tests were sent out via wireless carriers (cell phones). Then two minutes later sent via other means, radio TV, etc. Virtually all cellphones in the USA except for the few people with antique outdated phones, and a few on obscure, tiny, non-participating carriers received the message. 95% of the people in the USA own a cellphone, 77% of those own a smart phone. That covers the population better than any other form of communication (and also means all those people can listen to streaming radio).
Following the text test to phones the test hit broadcast media. Radio, TV, satellite radio, cable TV, satellite TV, etc all carried the test. This is one of the reasons stations are required to have up to date EAS and IPAWS/CAP receivers installed, with current software, working and regularly tested.
The system has been tested nationally before, but this was the first time for a national test of the system including wireless phones. The ability to receive these tests will in the future include much more than a national disaster. IPAWS and CAP allow many different authorities to issue alerts, from your area weather service to your local sheriffs department. When a train loaded with ammonia derailed in our region, the public was notified by law enforcement via this system warning people to stay out of the area. These alerts are issued locally and only to affected areas. The system can be very specific where warnings are deployed.
If you want to receive such alerts the cheapest way is to get a darn smartphone. Our business phone is my old iPhone (I think it’s a model 3) and the cell service I subscribe to is $5 a month. It received the alerts just fine. Of course there’s no way to interface that to your station that I know of off hand. My wife and I each have current iPhones, and are on two different carriers. We both received the message at the same time.
You can also set up your phone to receive weather alerts, AMBER alerts, and a lot more depending on what’s available in your area. If nothing else it would alert you to go on the air should the warning apply to the coverage area of your station.
If you want to provide real emergency alerts for you station you’ll need an EAS decoder, such as the Sage 3644 which will set you back about $2,300. Connected to receivers for a local EAS monitoring station, a receiver for NOAA weather, and the internet, you’ll receive all alerts that affect your area and the nation, and they’ll be automatically broadcast. This is one area where Part 15 stations fail the public. Unless you’re at your station 24-7 and ready to go live if something comes up.
You can also score a vintage SAGE unit that ties in to NOAA and your local EAS monitoring assignment station, and it will receive and broadcast weather emergencies, and other similar alerts, but is not capable of IPAWS or CAP. These can often be found on eBay pretty cheap as they no longer meet the legal requirements so stations were throwing them out of giving them away. I have one of these in my station and it handles weather alerts, EAS tests that get received, etc.
These systems, including the Presidential Alert are used for much more than pending war.
- October 5, 2018 at 1:28 pm #106810
Learning a Little
Thank you Tim for the presentation on how IPAWS and all the related systems work.
Somewhere in all the words within this thread it said that alerts were sent to computers along with all the other media, and that’s the way I’m hoping to receive it.
Another question… since area stations receive the alert by EAS what do they send out to their listeners? Isn’t there some way to receive their alert transmission?
Depending on the nature of the emergency, KDX will probably leave the air to clear the scene for major responders.
- October 5, 2018 at 1:38 pm #106811
The Original Quote
What I have been thinking about is this statement by Michelle Bradley of RECnet in the opening post:
“These alerts are then pushed to other users who will receive these alerts for rebroadcast to the public. The latter includes potential for broadcast stations, standalone devices, video gaming consoles, websites and wireless phones and tablets to receive data that is aggregated from IPAWS for distribution to the public.”
She didn’t say “computers” but actually said “websites”.
That seems like a weak point of contact given the fact that most websites are a clutter of choices… how could a website arrest the attention of someone who happened to be viewing their screen at that moment?
What I will try to do is learn more about how the “website” alerts work, and get the App or tool that puts alerts on a website.
- October 6, 2018 at 9:51 am #106818
If you are interested in a homebrew EAS receiver on a Rasberyy PI: https://github.com/cuppa-joe/dsame
Here’s a web page feed from the same https://www.pushbullet.com/channel?tag=xoynq-weather
- October 7, 2018 at 4:36 am #106827
As far as I know there is no system in place that will issue EAS/CAP/IPAWS alerts to computers looking at web pages. Not even sure how this might even be possible. Well, I take that back. An individual person with a web page can in fact use a text generator to run alerts across a websites page, much as a TV station does this on the air signal. But this would be strictly up to individual website owners to procure the necessary and expensive equipment to make this happen. Of course there are many weather services that offer a simple code that will put your city’s weather information on your website. For example if you were to visit my own very very basic website for my station, http://www.ironrangecountry.com you’ll see down in the lower left hand corner that it is 37 degrees and overcast right now. The free service also provides different versions of this, so it can include the forecast, etc and the forecast would naturally show any current weather alerts. SO, OK, yes, I believe you can put weather alerts on your website with no problem. However…
Weather alerts are NOT “EAS” messages. They are one example of an EAS message. So many get these confused. Yes, a severe weather event can and will issue an EAS alert. But weather is just one facet of EAS. And these others are not issued by the weather service. Local law enforcement, emergency management, FEMA, right on up to the President. Example, a child is kidnapped and an AMBER alert is issued. You won’t get that from the weather service. A dangerous chemical spill happens due to a train derailment causing air pollution that can harm people. A refinery fire spews toxic smoke into the air, a police standoff with gunfire creates danger is a part of town, etc. These are all not issued by the weather service and are issued by other agencies. The list of possibilities is quite long. To receive all of these you need a real EAS/CAP/IPAWS decoder which is connected to the necessary receivers (they are not part of the decoder) as well as the internet.
The home-brew device posted above is swell if all you want is computer text versions of weather alerts. But that is NOT “EAS” or IPAWS etc. It’s JUST weather. Here in the world of radio text alerts aren’t of much good and you can receive them just as easy by going to the website of your local weather service. Note that a weather radio is required for the above. It is triggered by the alerts that it is set to receive. You set the geographical area and what types of alerts you want to receive. When I first started my station I accomplished putting weather alerts on the air with nothing more than a simple weather radio and a relay dos the I built from spare parts. The radio I was using was a typical weather radio that receives SAME alerts (provides the encoding that fires the alert in the radio for the specific area and alerts I wanted to receive) like they all do these days. But this radio had a pair of terminals on it for a relay closure. It was meant to connect to a visual device for deaf people — so the alert would fire a flashing light, etc so they knew to read the text alert on the radio. Anyway, this relay stayed closed while the alert was being broadcast. I made a simply relax for that switched the audio from my station programming line to the audio output from the weather radio. When an alert came the relay in the radio switched on, switching the relay I build that changed my audio stream from my programming to the weather radio. When it was over the relay shut off, switching programming back to normal. I can’t remember what brand/model this weather radio was, but it was common and cheap.
This would get your weather alerts on the air, but it is NOT “EAS” or “IPAWS” you get only weather alerts.
In many areas of the country you can sign up for local alerts and others to arrive on your smartphone. Even here in northern Minnesota in small town USA, we can receive weather alerts, AMBER alerts, and local law enforcement, as well as many other alerts via text message. Might be an idea to search or ask around and see what’s available in your area.
- October 7, 2018 at 6:17 am #106832
Did not say or infer it’s an IPAWS system – The link above is an EAS / SAME decoder. Paired with an RTL-SDR dongle as mentioned in the article (the RTL-SDR is the receiver hardware), you will receive SAME encoded EAS message transmitted by which ever entry points the SDR is tuned to.
I have three of them, one tuned to the state primary entry point (WABC, 770 KHz) , one on the state secondary entry point (WFEM 94.7, MHz) , and the third on the NWS. (WXM60, 162.450 MHz). When triggered, It unmutes the audio, and dials the loudspeaker paging code for the phone system so you hear it all over the house.
All of the state entry points relay national EAS messages from the National Entry Point at Mount Weather, and locally generated, area specific messages from the various state agencies, so it’s definitely not weather only
Would I use the above gear in a commercial or production environment? Not a chance. But it does work in my hobby application.
- This reply was modified 2 months ago by spareparts. Reason: Clarification of the third paragraph
- October 7, 2018 at 6:30 am #106835
Yanking At a Thread in the Fabric
Somewhere in the words Tim said: “An individual person with a web page can in fact use a text generator to run alerts across a websites page.”
Then later on Tim noted that Text Generators are costly. I’ll hunt around to find out what they look like and where they come from.
The hackers usually find a simple home-brew way of doing things, so maybe there is a bargain-basement type of text generation for the project oriented hobbyist.
It would be fun to have emergency texts scroll on my website during the last minutes before the grid goes down.
- This reply was modified 2 months ago by Carl Blare.
- October 8, 2018 at 8:51 am #106843
- October 8, 2018 at 10:24 am #106848
Sorry. These guys are the lunatic fringe with Maxine Waters as their Commander in Chief. Tin foil hat time.
- October 9, 2018 at 2:52 am #106860
In case anyone is interested, here’s links to all the state plans:
Lists the state entry points
- October 31, 2018 at 6:33 pm #107063
The station where I’m the Chief Engineer at, the test went smoothly as anticipated on our part; the audio had some noise in it but then again, when the government is involved you take what you get. 🙂
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