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Journalist

Emergency Alert System and AlertReady

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A JOURNALIST HAS ISSUED A REQUIRED MONTHLY TEST FOR THE FOLLOWING COUNTIES/AREAS: TVNEWSTALK.NET; AT 11:49 AM ON OCTOBER 1, 2017 EFFECTIVE UNTIL 11:59 AM. MESSAGE FROM KBEX/TV.

 

 

After a totally short pretty long discussion in the chatbox, I felt compelled to create a thread dedicated to discussion on America's "Emergency Alert System" and its technical specifications. Discussion on the Canadian equivalent, the National Public Alerting System, aka "AlertReady", is welcome here. For definitions and example videos, click the spoiler button below.

 

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[spoiler=Brief definitions]

Systems:

 

Emergency Alert System (EAS): A national warning system in the United States. It is designed to enable the President to speak to the United States within 10 minutes and to alert the public of local weather emergencies such as tornadoes and flash floods. Messages are transmitted via AM, FM, broadcast television, and cable.

 

 

National Public Alerting System (NPAS) or "AlertReady": A national warning system in Canada. It is designed to allow the distribution of public alerts issued by government authorities (including Environment Canada and other provincial public safety agencies) across all television stations, radio stations, and broadcast distribution undertakings in the affected region.

 

Protocols:

 

Specific Area Message Encoding (SAME): A protocol used to encode the Emergency Alert System (EAS) and NOAA Weather Radio in the U.S. and Weatheradio in Canada. In the SAME system, messages are constructed in four parts, the first and last of which are digital data and the middle two are audio. The digital sections of a SAME message are AFSK data bursts encoded with metadata to trigger applicable receivers.

 

Common Alerting Protocol (CAP): An XML-based data protocol for exchanging public warnings and emergencies between alerting technologies. CAP allows a warning message to be consistently disseminated simultaneously over many warning systems to many applications. CAP increases warning effectiveness and simplifies the task of activating a warning for responsible officials.

 

 

Backends:

 

Primary Entry Point (PEP): PEP stations are private or commercial radio broadcast stations that cooperatively participate with FEMA to provide emergency alert and warning information to the public before, during, and after incidents and disasters.

 

 

Unified Efforts and Architectures:

 

Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS): An architecture that unifies the United States' Emergency Alert System, Wireless Emergency Alerts, and NOAA Weather Radio, under a single platform. IPAWS was designed to modernize these systems by enabling alerts to be aggregated over a network and distributed to the appropriate system for public dissemination.

 

National Alert Aggregation & Dissemination System (NAAD): A platform operated by Pelmorex Media that consists of infrastructure and standards for the distribution of public alerts to broadcasters, in consort with a style guide that dictates when and how alerts are to be broadcast.

[style guide: Common Look and Feel.]

 

 

 

 

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An archive of discussion straight from the chatbox, feel free to respond.

 

The Emergency Alert System is incredibly dysfunctional. They seriously need to drop the dreadful PEP daisy chain and move to the CAP protocol...

 

Here's the thing. The PEP daisy chain is kind of a backup now...CAP/IPAWS is the primary nowadays. Neither of them had anything to do with the encoder malfunction.

 

Isn't the EAS designed to receive alerts from the fastest route, though?

 

From what I remember, that was the outstanding issue from the 2016 national test - many stations received the daisy chained PEP alert first and not the FEMA's CAP alert as it was originally intended. It was noted in a article from TVTechnology: A electronic firm briefed the FCC about the 'first-come-first-serve' mentality of the EAS. To remedy this issue they proposed a data-gathering system (Alert is telecasted when the EAS gathers both initial PEP and descriptive CAP data). There was no response as of yet.

 

Still can't believe the FCC and FEMA thought it was a good idea to allow two fundamentally different alerting protocols run in the wild at the same time without creating a priority system.

 

I remember the huge fuck ups during the first national test. I had DIRECTV at the time and we got Lady Gaga instead of the test, on every channel.

 

The Canadian system is CAP-based and is practically immediate

 

It is. Canada's AlertReady system is 100 times better than the EAS. For starters: it actually works.

 

AlertReady focuses on functionality and practicality. It encourages the usage of digital satellite or internet-based dissemination because the old analog-based broadcast daisy chain isn't backwards compatible - nor is it a suitable 'backup' in case of a primary failure.

 

Plus, it doesn't use the god-awful SAME encoder and character generator. Who thought it was a good idea to push out information and graphics in a style only engineers and tech geeks would understand?

 

Nonetheless, AlertReady is able to push relevant information pertaining to its alerts. The Fort Mac wildfire was a great example - it was able to push out full details to viewers where to evacuate. The EAS, despite using AlertReady's CAP technology, couldn't even do half of AlertReady's practical advancements... either due to SAME's limitations or a PEP breakdown.

 

 

The thing about SAME is that it wasn't necessarily designed for the EAS anyway - it had its start in NOAA Weather Radio, where the U.S. continues to do a much better job IMO (Weatheradio Canada isn't *bad*, just...too basic for my liking). The fact that it was suitable for the EAS in 1997 was sheer stroke of luck, basically.

The entire point of the geeky stuff is to get an audio message out with it that the public can understand, and IMO it's succeeded at that. As for AlertReady, quite frankly I'm not well-versed in it yet, but in time I think IPAWS will catch up too.

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CAP has, in my experience, made a tremendous improvement to EAS, even though they still have the daisy chain going simultaneously. If anything, CAP "thins out the herd" - many stations will get and rebroadcast the CAP transmitted alert first, meaning less stations on the daisy-chain, and therefore less stations to potentially screw up. Yes, the station I do work with received the daisy-chained message first - but it was a crystal-clear transmission from our SR station, so my ENDEC had no issues rebroadcasting it just as clearly.

 

Would I prefer if CAP was slightly prioritized? Probably, but I get that the FCC and FEMA are probably more concerned about immediacy of relay, and somewhat reticent to tell equipment "Yeah, if you get an EAN from something other than CAP, you can just go ahead and wait around to see if you also get a CAP message."

 

That said, these ongoing national tests (with corresponding FCC ETRS reports) have also helped considerably. They've kicked station engineers into gear to make sure their ENDECs are configured properly and configured to properly monitor their assigned sources. I know I was (and remain) embarrassed how poor quality the reception is on one of our monitoring receivers. (Fortunately, it's the backup to the SR station, which does come in clear. And now, with the addition of CAP, my receiver has 3 good sources to monitor other than the crappy reception we get from our assigned LP source.)

 

As the FCC has time to continue to analyze the forms from last month's national test, I think they will continue to make tweaks to the system... slow, deliberate tweaks, but improvements nonetheless.

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In on-screen implementation on TV, they're both junk in certain scenarios. Due to the technical limitations, you only get text and audio, and they go down the one-size fits all route. The only difference is that Canada seems to prefer larger paragraphs of information and seemingly requires everything to be in white on red backgrounds (though I've seen footage of at least one provider who uses that "navy blue with a reddish border" screen instead. You probably know what I mean).

 

CAP has the ability to embed images as attachments; why can't the implementations/displays be automatically tailored based on the type of alert; if it's an Amber Alert, you need to get the photo out there. Social media, and just normal newscasts in general, perform better at this than anything. If it's weather, you should be able to see the map. However, Canadian news outlets are much less obsessed with their weather coverage than in the U.S. (to be honest, Canadian local news outlets are just plain bad at local coverage to begin with).

 

The Canadian system definitely has the advantage of being legacy-free; no daisy-chaining, fewer points that a hacker could get in through to broadcast their Fake Zombie Apocalypse, no technical dependency on special tones to actually trigger things/transmit data.

 

However, operator error is still possible: the very first time Saskatchewan decided to feed an Amber Alert through it, they seemingly only put an introductory sentence in the text field and left everything else in the text-to-speech (meaning that on my provider, which shows them on a ticker in a red rectangle near the center of the screen, it was basically blank the whole time).

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I know this is an old thread, but it seemed wiser to put this here. If not, mods please move it with my apologies.

 

I am listening to KUOI radio right now. There is a notice of another National EAS Test (the fourth such. This time it will be with the first test of Wireless Emergency Alerts), which has been postponed to Oct 3, at 2:18 ET (WEA) and 2:20 (EAS).

 

 

I have a Jitterbug, which doesn't have many options. Not sure if it will be part of this test or not. Should be interesting, though.

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Is there any signal leakage (can’t find a better word) over the international border if a Canadian cell phone is for some reason roaming on a US network while in Canada?

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Is there any signal leakage (can’t find a better word) over the international border if a Canadian cell phone is for some reason roaming on a US network while in Canada?

 

Passing through Buffalo on Amtrak once I got a text message from AT&T saying 'welcome abroad!', so I must have somehow gotten a hit to a Rogers tower across the Niagara in Fort Erie. So it definitely exists.

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A series of tornadoes has struck the National Capital Region of Canada this past Friday. A number of neighbourhoods were destroyed, but thankfully there were no fatal injuries. Today on CTV Toronto's noon newscast, meteorologist Anwar Knight and anchor Michelle Dubé noted the quick measures taken by the Ottawa residents, and alluded to the fact that the Canada's AlertReady system, which was promptly activated to send a tornado warning to phones and broadcast stations on that day, has helped saved lives. "When you have your phone and the alarm goes off: watch it, see what is says, assess the situation, and react to it because it could literally save your life."

 

DnpbF2ZX0AEsMAM.jpg

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So if I’m not mistake Presidential WEA will sound on your phone if silenced. I wonder how many phones we’ll here on cable nets going off.

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Canada's first wireless alert test did not achieve full success, according to the CRTC. Another wireless test is now planned for November, presumedly with Ontario and Quebec getting a 2 day head start from the rest of the country. A similar test for the traditional broadcast medium will commence in December.

 

The dissemination and distribution of province-wide visible wireless test alerts issued during the 2018 EPW did not achieve full success, in light of reported issues in the consistency of tests.

This letter indicated that, overall, federal, provincial and territorial SOREM recognize the value of a second, all-channel (wireless and broadcast) public awareness test message in November 2018 and would support such a second test.
Edited by Guest

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On 10/11/2018 at 2:32 PM, Journalist said:

Another wireless test is now planned for November, presumedly with Ontario and Quebec getting a 2 day head start from the rest of the country. A similar test for the traditional broadcast medium will commence in December.

from Pelmorex:

"On November 28th at 1:55 PM local time (2:55 PM local time in Quebec), a test of the Alert Ready system will be conducted. The test will be distributed on TV, radio and compatible wireless devices"

Edited by Journalist
Still getting 7s

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Glad to find this thread again.

 

During the test on Wednesday after my phone went off, I looked at my TV.  It was tuned to CNN when I heard "This is WTVD-TV Raleigh" before the Canadian emergency alert took over.

 

Just wondering if the Canadian system may have triggered the U.S. alert system or not.

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16 minutes ago, Northerner said:

Just wondering if the Canadian system may have triggered the U.S. alert system or not.

Most Americans seem to be triggered pretty easy now...so anything is possible.

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7 hours ago, Northerner said:

Glad to find this thread again.

 

During the test on Wednesday after my phone went off, I looked at my TV.  It was tuned to CNN when I heard "This is WTVD-TV Raleigh" before the Canadian emergency alert took over.

 

Just wondering if the Canadian system may have triggered the U.S. alert system or not.

Should've said "WTVD Durham."

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Correct.

 

I do suspect Shaw Broadcast Services has an agreement with that particular station to receive services.  I know that Canadian service providers need to find a partner to bring services cross-border.

 

I think KSPS passes all Spokane signals for their western cable feeds.

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The Canadian system shouldn’t trigger any US station.  Two different forms of triggering.

However the equipment manufacturers are the same.  During periodic Comcast tests here where the entire channel lineup goes out, I too have gotten messages saying it was originated by WTVD-TV and specifically said Raleigh as well.  I don’t think Comcast is in WTVDs footprint nor is WTVD an originator.  The only thing I can think of is that it’s a default test message among one manufacturer.

 

 

 

 

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