What you need to do before the national EAS test August 7th

FEMA, in coordination with the Federal Communications Commission, will conduct a nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System (EAS) on Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2019.
The nationwide test will be sent to radio and television stations beginning at 2:20 p.m. EDT.

The test is being conducted through FEMA’s Integrated Public Alert and Warning System.
This year, the test message will originate from designated radio stations, known as Primary Entry Point stations, which participate in a component of IPAWS called the National Public Warning System. All other radio and television stations, cable, wireline service providers, and direct broadcast satellite service providers should subsequently receive and broadcast the test message.

This year’s test will evaluate the readiness of the national alerting capability in the absence of internet connectivity and will not include a message on cell phones via Wireless Emergency Alerts. The test will be approximately one minute long, have a limited impact on the public with only minor interruption of radio and television programs, and will be similar to regular monthly EAS tests. Both the audio message and text crawl should be accessible to people with disabilities.

What does your station need to do before this test?

Assuming you have already filed your ETRS Form 1 which was due a month ago,

  1. Review the EAS Operating Handbook for actions to be taken by operators upon receipt of the test alert and make sure a copy of the EAS Operating Handbook is immediately available to operators before, during and after the test.
  2. Review VT’s EAS Plan for monitoring assignments and ensuring that EAS equipment is accurately configured to monitor those sources.
  3. Ensure that EAS equipment can receive and process the NPT code, the “six zeros” national location code and otherwise operate in compliance with FCC rules.
  4. Manually synchronize EAS equipment clocks to the official time provided by the National Institute of Standards and Technology if your EAS equipment does not automatically synchronize to an internet time source.
  5. Upgrade EAS equipment software and firmware to the most recent version.

If you use a Sage ENDEC, there are two updates needed; one is a free software update required by August 12th, the other is a firmware update that is not free.

Sage has announced several changes/updates forthcoming.     Their announcement is below.   If you are on version 89-30 or newer, you do NOT need to update your Sage 3644 codec in order to comply with the upcoming NPT on August 7, 2019.    If you do NOTHING between now and August 7, you’re good to go.

If you choose NOT to update prior to NPT/August 7, you MUST apply the FREE UPDATE (89-34) by August 12th to be compliant with an FCC rule change regarding logistics of time frame validity of an alert.   Easy, free, you’ve done these before – and there’s no reason you can’t install 89-34 NOW, today, if you wish!   Link to 89-34 update is below.

As we get into September, things happen.  The short read is, in order to continue receiving CAP-based events, you need to update your 3644’s at a cost of $349 per box.   Some requested/needed updates will be part of this major release but the bottom line is, we all need it to remain compliant with/receive CAP messaging.    FEMA has NOT released a ‘go’ date for when they will begin using this new standard for IPAWS server access.   Their security certificate is expiring in November and this may coincide with the change.   Sage plans their major version release in September, so as to be proactively ahead of FEMA’s standards change.  DHS typically doesn’t release new certificates until 30 days out from expiration, which would roll into October.

Monroe/DASDEC and Trilithic users are accustom to paying for updates.    For Sage users, it’s been 11 years.    Please read below for details from Sage on how to purchase and when the update will be available.

Here is the official message is from Sage Alerting Systems regarding your Sage Digital ENDEC model 3644:

“Sage has released firmware version 89-34. This free update addresses a changed requirement in the FCC EAS rules, Part 11.33(a)(10), which affects how the valid time frame of an alert is determined. This rule change takes effect on August 12, 2019. The ENDEC currently employs a slightly different method of determining the valid time frame. The update will have no adverse effect on the reception and relay of valid alerts. All users must install this update.

NOTE: This release does not affect the ENDEC’s reception and relay of the scheduled August 7, 2019 National Periodic Test. Whether your ENDEC is running version 89-30, 89-32, or this new version 89-34, your ENDEC will relay the NPT. 

See https://www.sagealertingsystems.com/support-firmware-new.htm for details on this update.

Sage also plans a major version release in September. As is typical with data security, old methods are discarded in favor of new, more secure methods. FEMA will be making a change to the method used to connect to its IPAWS server, disabling an older method in favor of the new standard. Our September release will support that change. After the FEMA switchover, older versions of the ENDEC software will not be able to receive CAP messages from IPAWS. In addition, the September release will focus on features our users have asked for, including the ability to preferentially send the CAP version of EAS messages for most alerts, role-based logins, enhanced automation interfaces (IP and GPIO), day parts, activity logging, emailed summary logs, and more. This release will be mandatory.

While Sage has made updates available at no charge since the original 2008 release of the Model 3644 ENDEC, there will be a one-time charge of $349 for the September release. The release will only be sold through our distributors. This update will be provided free of charge for ENDECs purchased new after March 1, 2018 (eighteen months prior to September 2019). We’ll send out an email when that release is available.

If you have any questions regarding these updates, please email support@sagealertingsystems.com or call 914-872-4069 and press 1 for support. If you get voice mail, please leave a message and we will return your call.  

Finally, a reminder that you can verify that your ENDEC is configured to carry FEMA’s  August 7th National Alert by using the “Verify Req” button at the bottom of the tools page in the ENDEC’s web interface. Click it and the ENDEC will show the filter names that match the EAN and NPT codes, and an indication that your settings are, or are not, compliant. If you don’t have a “Verify Req” button, or you don’t see the “Your ENDEC will meet the FCC requirements” messages for EAN and NPT, then you are running a pre-2016 release. Check our above web page, or contact support if you need assistance in updating.”


Follow Up After the National EAS Test:

On or before 11:59pm EDT August 7, 2019, you must file “day of test” information sought by ETRS Form 2. On or before September 23, 2019, you must file the detailed post-test data sought by ETRS Form 3. ETRS Forms 2 and 3 will become available in the ETRS at the time of initiation of the 2019 nationwide test.

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