1.a federal warning system that is activated by FEMA; enables the President to take over the United States airwaves to warn the whole country of major catastrophic events
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The Emergency Alert System (EAS) is a national warning system in the United States put into place on January 1, 1997, when it superseded the Emergency Broadcast System (EBS), which itself had superseded the CONELRAD System. In addition to alerting the public of local weather emergencies such as tornadoes and flash floods, the official EAS is designed to enable the President of the United States to speak to the United States within 10 minutes, but the nationwide federal EAS has never been activated. A national EAS test was conducted on November 9, 2011 at 2pm Eastern Standard Time. The EAS regulations and standards are governed by the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau of the FCC. Each state and several territories have their own EAS plan. EAS has become part of IPAWS - the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System, a program of Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). EAS is jointly coordinated by FEMA, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and the National Weather Service (NOAA/NWS).
The EAS is used on AM, FM and Land Mobile Radio Service, as well as VHF, UHF, FiOS (wireline video providers), and cable television including low-power stations. Digital television and cable providers, along with Sirius XM satellite radio, IBOC, DAB and digital radio broadcasters have been required to participate in the EAS since December 31, 2006. DirecTV, Dish Network and all other DBS providers have been required to participate since May 31, 2007.
The SAME header (help·info) is the most critical part of the EAS design. It contains information about who originated the alert (the President, state or local authorities, the National Weather Service (NOAA/NWS), or the broadcaster), a short, general description of the event (tornado, flood, severe thunderstorm), the areas affected (up to 32 counties or states), the expected duration of the event (in minutes), the date and time it was issued (in UTC), and an identification of the originating station. (See SAME for a complete breakdown of the header.)
More than thirty radio stations are designated as National Primary Stations in the Primary Entry Point (PEP) System to distribute Presidential messages to other broadcast stations and cable systems. The Emergency Action Notification is the notice to broadcasters that the President of the United States or his designee will deliver a message over the EAS via the PEP system.
The FEMA National Radio System (FNARS) "Provides Primary Entry Point service to the Emergency Alert System," acts as an emergency presidential link into the EAS, and is capable of phone patches. The FNARS net control station is located at the Mount Weather Emergency Operations Center.
In a The New York Times article (correction printed January 3, 2002) "No president has ever used the current [EAS] system or its technical predecessors in the last 50 years, despite the Soviet missile crisis, a presidential assassination, the Oklahoma City bombing, major earthquakes and three recent high-alert terrorist warnings... Michael K. Powell, the then chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, which oversees the Emergency Alert System, pointed to 'the ubiquitous media environment,' arguing that the system was, in effect, scooped by CNN, MSNBC, Fox News Channel and other channels... [FEMA] activates the alert system nationally at the behest of the White House on 34 50,000-watt stations that reach 98 percent of Americans... Beyond that, the current EAS signal is an audio message only—which pre-empts all programming—so that viewers who were watching color images of the trade center on Sept. 11 would have been able to see only a screen with a generic text message along with a presidential voice-over, if an emergency message had been activated."
Because the header lacks error detection codes, it is repeated three times for redundancy. However, the repetition of the data can itself be considered an error detection and correction code—like any error detection or correction code, it adds redundant information to the signal in order to make errors identifiable. EAS decoders compare the received headers against one another, looking for an exact match between any two, eliminating most errors which can cause an activation to fail. The decoder then decides whether to ignore the message or to relay it on the air if the message applies to the local area served by the station (following parameters set by the broadcaster).
The SAME header bursts are followed by an attention signal (help·info) which lasts between eight and 25 seconds, depending on the originating station. The tone is 1050 Hz (help·info) on a NOAA Weather Radio (NOAA/NWS) station, while on commercial broadcast stations, it consists of a "two tone" combination of 853 Hz and 960 Hz sine waves and is the same attention signal used by the older Emergency Broadcast System. The "two tone" system is no longer required as of 1998 and is to be used only for audio alerts before EAS messages.[full citation needed] Like the EBS, the attention signal is followed by a voice message describing the details of the alert.
The FCC requires all broadcast stations and multichannel video programming distributors (MVPD) to install and maintain FCC-certified EAS decoders and encoders at their control points or headends unless they have been designated a non-participating station by the FCC. These decoders continuously monitor the signals from other nearby broadcast stations for EAS messages. For reliability, at least two source stations must be monitored, one of which must be a designated local primary. Stations are to retain the latest version of the EAS handbook.
Stations are required by federal law to keep logs of all received required monthly test, required weekly test, emergency action notification, and emergency action termination messages. Logs may be kept by hand but are usually kept automatically by a small receipt printer in the encoder/decoder unit. Logs may also be kept electronically inside the unit as long as there is access to an external printer or method to transfer them to a personal computer. While only the four aforementioned events are required by federal law to be logged, most stations log all received activations.
In addition to the audio messages transmitted by radio stations, television stations must also transmit a visual message. A text "crawl" is displayed at the top of the screen that contains all of the information encoded in the initial SAME header. A color coded "crawl" system is often used where the color signifies the priority of the message. Some television stations transmit only the visual message which is outside of the requirements. A television station may be used for monitoring by another station and thus the audio is necessary.[full citation needed]
Participating stations are required by federal law to relay EAN (Emergency Action Notification) and EAT (Emergency Action Termination) messages immediately (47 CFR Part 11.54). Stations traditionally have been allowed to opt out of relaying other alerts such as severe weather, and child abduction emergencies (AMBER Alerts) if they so choose. Under new rules published on July 12, 2007, the FCC intends to require all stations to relay state and local alerts that are approved by their states' governors (pending approval of the CAP standard).
Non-participating stations do not relay messages. Instead they transmit a message instructing listeners/viewers to tune to another station for the information, and they must then suspend their operation.
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All EAS equipment must be tested weekly. The required weekly test (RWT) consists, at a minimum, of the header and the end-of-message SAME bursts. Though a RWT does not need an audio or graphic message announcing the test, many stations will provide them as a courtesy to the public. Television stations are not required to transmit a video message for weekly tests. RWTs are scheduled by the station, on random days and times, and are generally not relayed.[full citation needed]
Required monthly tests (RMTs) are generally originated by the primary relay station, a state emergency management agency, or by the National Weather Service (NOAA/NWS) and are then relayed by broadcast and cable stations. RMTs must be performed between 8:30 a.m. and local sunset during odd numbered months, and local sunset to 8:30AM for even months. Received monthly tests must be re-transmitted within 60 minutes from receipt.[full citation needed] Additionally, an RMT should not be scheduled or conducted during an event of great importance such as a pre-announced Presidential speech, coverage of a national/local election, major local or national news coverage outside regularly scheduled newscast hours or a major national sporting event such as the Super Bowl or World Series, with other events such as the Daytona 500 and Olympic Games mentioned in individual EAS state plans.
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A RWT is not required during a calendar week in which an RMT is scheduled. No testing has to be done at all during a calendar week in which all parts of the EAS (header burst, attention signal, audio message, and end of message burst) have been legitimately activated. Coordinated national tests are planned to be conducted at least once every year, beginning with the national test that happened on November 9, 2011, and are very similar to RMTs.
On November 9, 2011, after the national test was attempted, stations began calling in saying that some of their receivers weren't able to relay the test, or some just didn't get the test at all; DirecTV users reported even hearing Lady Gaga's "Paparazzi" throughout the test. As of November 9, 2011, the FCC is still collecting data, however, it is clear that not every station in the US received or relayed the alert. The message, according to some, also lacked the alert code which would allow the President to speak. Due to a feedback loop in the PEP system, the test could be heard several times in the background, and the EOM (end of message) code was sent twice, violating EAS rules. The test was cut down to 30 seconds rather than the proposed 3 minutes. A similar test of the National EAS was carried out in January 2010, but operations were limited to the state of Alaska. That test was carried out flawlessly.
The number of event types in the national system has grown to eighty. At first, all but three of the events (civil emergency message, immediate evacuation, and emergency action notification (national emergency)) were weather-related (such as a tornado warning). Since then, several classes of non-weather emergencies have been added, including, in most states, the AMBER Alert System for child abduction emergencies.
In 2004, the FCC issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeking comment on whether EAS in its present form is the most effective mechanism for warning the American public of an emergency and, if not, on how EAS can be improved, such as mandatory text messages to cellphones, regardless of subscription. As noted above, rules implemented by the FCC on July 12, 2007 provisionally endorse incorporating CAP with the SAME protocol.
On February 3, 2011, the FCC announced plans and procedures for national EAS tests, which will involve all television and radio stations connected to the EAS system, as well as all cable and satellite services in the United States. It will not be relayed on the NOAA Weather Radio (NOAA/NWS) network as it is an initiation-only network and does not receive messages from the PEP network.  The national test will transmit and relay an EAS test message from the White House. This protocol was first used in the first national test of the EAS, conducted on November 9, 2011 at 2:00 PM EST/11:00 AM PST. 
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EAS is designed to be useful for the entire public, not just those with SAME-capable equipment. However, several consumer-level radios do exist, especially weather radio receivers, which are available to the public through both mail-order and retailers including Radio Shack and several others. Other specialty receivers for AM/FM/ACSSB(LM) are available only through mail-order, or in some places from federal, state, or local governments, especially where there is a potential hazard nearby such as a chemical factory. These radios come pre-tuned to a station in each area that has agreed to provide this service to local emergency management officials and agencies, often with a direct link back to the plant's safety system or control room for instant activation should an evacuation or other emergency arise.
The ability to narrow messages down so that only the actual area in danger is alerted is extremely helpful in preventing false warnings, which was previously a major tune-out factor. Instead of sounding for all warnings within a station's area, SAME-decoder radios now sound only for the counties they are programmed for. When the alarm sounds, anyone with the radio knows that the danger is nearby and protective action should be taken. For this reason, the goal of the National Weather Service (NOAA/NWS) is that each home should have both a smoke detector and a SAME weather radio.
In the video game Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, during a Russian invasion of the United States, one of the loading screen videos is simply the Emergency Alert System. A message scrolls across the screen giving evacuation instructions for residents of Prince George's County. Strangely, the scrolling message says "EMERGENCY BROADCAST SYSTEM" when the tone is actually the EAS tone.
In the 2009 science fiction film Knowing, when Diana pulls in at the gas station and goes to the clerk for gasoline, the television in the background is displaying a 24 hour news broadcast, when suddenly the screen changes with both the "Emergency Alert System" alert tones and an alert message stating, "This is an Emergency Broadcast Transmission!" "This is not a test!" The message repeats again and you see a portrayal of a fictionalized presidential cabinet alerting the public of the impending solar flares.
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