Thursday, February 10, 2011

By Nick Markowitz Jr.

An internet radio host Alex Jones and others have been making a big fuss over the EAS System or Emergency Alerting System which is found in every terrestrial Radio and TV Station which provides for emergency messages such as severe weather alerts an evacuation message should there be Chemical Release etc.
But the main purpose of EAS was to disseminate and distribute messages of a National Emergency such as an impending Nuclear Attack started in the 1950’s the now famous “your attention please this is test of the Emergency Broadcasting System, this is only a test “was originally started back during the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis
To warn the citizens of an impending attack which thank god never happened.
The original system had certain stations in regions around the country such as KDKA 1020 AM and WQED FM here in Pittsburgh Pa. which upon receiving the encoded signal from Washington D.C. would verify it similar to how nuclear mission pilots do and then they would transmit out to stations like where I am the Broadcast engineer WAVL 910AM in Apollo Pa. where we had 2 radios always tuned into both stations and listening for the signal these radios would be tied to what is known as an Endec Box which upon hearing the tones shuts off the talk or music and would then rebroadcast the message. Or if station has personnel on site the personnel first verify message and then release it which can be up to several minutes for non emergency messages such a storm watch.
The system worked some what because some times the signal from KDKA and WQED would get thru some times not depending on weather etc. The City of Johnstown was one which was often hard pressed to get the message. Since they sit in the Allegheny Mountains
Now remember this was before the internet and small inexpensive satellites’ became widely available. Then with the advent of 9-11 the state of Pennsylvania and others started looking for a better way to get messages across the state in a timely matter and also from various authorized agency’s especially in light of the fact the US Government never issued an emergency broadcast during the events of 9-11 which many thought should have happened in fact there has never been a full nation wide test of the EAS system only a couple of regions have ever tested it.
Pa. chose Em-Net from Comm-labs which is satellite based with internet back up messages can be sent from PEMA Pa. Emergency Management Agency in Harrisburg Pa. instantly and get feed back via the internet of message has been received and transmitted. Also at the radio stations we can send out emergency messages and amber alerts so they can be verified and retransmitted as well all in all things have worked very well.
So now FEMA Federal Emergency Management Agency and HLS Homeland Security for the last few years have been working on an updated EAS and of course all the stations will have to buy updated Endec Boxes so they will be able to receive the new CAP codes which tell the box how to react.
Several vendors are now making units available to stations and they hope everything is in place some time in 2012
The new system will with cooperation of manufacturers allow emergency messages over Cell phones ,I pods and other electronic devices since many people do not listen to or have turned on a terrestrial radio or TV station.
All the various devices would turn on instantly which in theory sounds good but there actually pulling it off will be another thing. Among the new features would be several levels of presidential emergency messages which can warn about potential terrorists’ activity as well and the alerting systems are even being tied into Mass Notifications systems as well. Many large industrial facility’s already have Weather emergency radios tied into the public address systems at there plants to warn workers of potential emergencies and this takes it to the next step.
It’s a very good system and will be able to get messages to all. But of course there are those like Alex Jones who compare this to the days of NAZI Germany where every corner had a speaker and carried Adolf Hitler’s daily Messages and failure to do so could result in death or interment in a concentration camp if you interfered.
Yes this system could do that but like anything electronic its just a matter of hitting a switch pulling a cord and no message So yes it could be used for evil purposes but any thing evil can and will be overcome.
But from every thing I have seen and read on the situation it looks like an excellent use of technology.
You can follow developments just like I do on Radio World Magazines website.
And decide for your self.

Here is a sample emergency test message sent by Pa. Em-Net service

Exported EMnet message

From: PA EMnet NC/RC Monitor Mobile (PA.006)
Author: EMnet-PA.006
Originated: 04:17AM Thu 02/17/2011
Originator's Message ID: 31

To: 042000
Priority: 3

Test! This is a State Wide Required Monthly Test originating from the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, Harrisburg. This is Only a Test!
Event duration expressed in local time (Eastern Standard Time):
Starting: Thu 02/17/2011 04:16AM Eastern Standard Time
Ending: Thu 02/17/2011 09:16AM Eastern Standard Time

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