Friday, January 6, 2012

Hi-Fidelity Alerts and the Future of Public Warning

This morning at about 11 AM CRESA conducted a test of the Emergency Alert System (EAS) that went out live on Portland TV and radio stations. Maybe you heard it. It was a first live test of a new system we have for activating EAS alerts. Like any first test, it wasn't without glitches. The first attempt went out without any voice message on just a few stations. But the second time around was pitch perfect.

Since the mid-90's, we've relied on a two-way radio system for sending alerts to broadcasters who then turned it around through their broadcast signal. With that system, by the time the voice message went through multiple radio systems it sounded pretty horrible to the listener. At times, it could be almost unintelligible. Not exactly what you want in a system that's meant to give people life-saving instructions. Now that two-way radio-based system becomes a backup to our new system that uses the internet to communicate our alerts to TV and radio broadcasters. This allows us to send crystal clear audio to broadcasters and the public. This is what we tested this morning.

These are the first steps toward our transition to the new national system for public warning called the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS). In the current phase, both Washington and Oregon are working to finish the integration of this new warning standard into the current EAS system. But that only addresses TV and radio stations. What's perhaps more exciting is that in near future you'll see this system integrate text messages, voice messages, messages to your computer or mobile devices via social media or via new apps, and to new and existing devices such as tone alert radios.

A lot of work is being done at the local, state, and federal level to implement IPAWS. It represents a very powerful partnership between the public and private sectors to improve our ability to warn you of an emergency. If you want to learn more, here is more information about IPAWS.

Did you know that right now there are a number of things that you can do to ensure that you can access emergency information? To learn about these check out CRESA's Alerts and Warnings website.

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