EAS: A Valuable Work in Progress
must respectfully disagree with Warren Shulz’s conclusion that we
should disconnect EAS from public broadcasting (“It’s Broke; Stop
Trying to Fix It,” June 5 issue). However, Warren is correct that
outmoded legacy EBS and EAS policies weigh down classic EAS and make
it less than effective as a warning tool. Recent EAS changes have not
Rudman. ‘Most protective action warnings fail to get to the people
who need them because they were never issued.’
question to Warren: When emergencies disrupt all other means of mass
communication, how will the government be able tell us what
protective actions the public must take to help stabilize the
national emergency condition? Arguably, networks carrying a national
press conference are the best, fastest and most complete way for
federal leadership to communicate with us; but what if the networks
are not able to do it?
created the Primary Entry Point network using a small number of AM
radio stations, with the goal of being able to reach a potential
audience of 90 percent of the tuned-in public. As we now know, both
day and night coverage for original PEP stations could never could
come close to that goal.
FEMA devised PEP to work when it would be impossible to call a press
conference. The broadcast engineering advisory group for PEP made
sure those original few stations could do the job if the unthinkable
ever really happened. FEMA has now built and commissioned a number of
new PEP outlets and PEP network paths for the day we can only hope
will never come.
can and does deliver warnings when other means fail. Broadcasting can
deliver emergency public information, or “EPI,” in “long form,”
as opposed to WEA, Twitter and Nixle — all short-form text
messaging systems with little to no voice transmission capability;
all very vulnerable to cell and Internet network impairment and
utility power, cable and Internet services are crippled by the very
emergencies they are supposed to inform us about, broadcasting has
proven resilient. This resilience extends to reception since almost
everyone with a vehicle still has a dashboard radio.
how can we fix parts of EAS that are broken or were never built?
2002, a small group of warning subject experts formed the Partnership
for Public Warning Inc. to address major deficiencies in all warning
systems and policies of the United States.
PPW wrote several reports. One report called for a national warning
strategy — something still does not exist.
report described the Common Alerting Protocol, the open,
international, non-proprietary standard for origination of warnings
by the emergency management community through a wide range of warning
CAP message, as envisioned by the PPW, can convey specific protective
actions to help save more lives and property that far surpass what
the original EAS SAME protocol could deliver over all available
warning systems including the broadcast path.
EAS messaging is still saddled with single-point failure, an
unfortunate legacy of EBS that needs to go.
also has much better built-in protections against “spoofing,” a
key deficiency that Warren rightly points out in legacy EAS. Local
and state warnings should be delivered to all broadcast entry points
using what Washington State EAS calls local relay networks. No more
mastodon in the room when we talk about all public warnings is that
most protective action warnings fail to get to the people who need
them because they were never issued. There is a lot of research
behind my statement, available on Colorado State’s Center for
Disaster and Risk Analysis website.
way to fix this is to convince more emergency managers that the
public warning tool is a valuable resource in the same sense that
fire strike teams and emergency food and water are response
resources. I have presented this idea to FEMA with some hope that
this concept will become part of basic emergency management training
in the National Incident Management System.
other side of this issue is that we are losing what used to be a deep
commitment by licensees to deliver warnings to the public, a pledge
that was once an essential element of broadcasting public service.
Maybe recent large-scale emergencies will convince those licensees
that they are wrong?
more thing. All end-user warning devices, including radios and TV
sets, should have direct CAP recognition built in, and broadcast
receivers (radio and TV) should store and display warnings and other
emergency messages, so they do not have to appear in the program
classic EAS and going to full-on CAP EAS, coupled with CAP-aware
“warning appliances,” are goals we should recommend to the FCC,
FEMA, the Weather Service and the consumer electronics industry to
help alleviate the national EAS deficiencies that Warren rightly
decries. These goals can strengthen our ability to give the public
timely protective actions using as many devices as possible via as
many warning entry points as possible.
should not care how people learn they are in danger; we must care if
we are not doing everything possible to warn them of danger,
including preserving and strengthening the broadcast entry point.
Rudman is vice chair of the California EAS State Emergency Committee
and a core member of the Broadcast Warning Working Group. Tune in for
more of this discussion at the EAS Forum, eas.radiolists.net.