Nationwide EAS test reveals FEMA equipment problem

Emergency Broadcasting In the News
Gary Timm

On August 7, 2019 at 1:20 p.m. CDT, FEMA conducted a Nationwide EAS Test.  The test was only partially successful in Wisconsin.  There are two parts to every National EAS Test.  The first is that our State EAS Network is capable of distributing the alert to all corners of our State, and the second is the quality of the alert message furnished to us by the Federal government.  The good news is that the Wisconsin EAS Network passed its part of the test, successfully distributing the test across the State – there were no reports of any station not receiving and logging the test.  However, the bad news is that FEMA experienced an equipment failure that caused the test in Wisconsin to consist only of the EAS Header Code followed by the End-of-Message Code, but no audio message.

FEMA’s objective with this year’s test was to determine the ability to disseminate a message without using the internet, simulating a loss of internet connectivity.  The message was originated using only the network of powerful AM stations known as Primary Entry Point (PEP) stations.  Our Wisconsin PEP station is WTMJ in Milwaukee, which has agreed to host a FEMA-installed EAS unit at the transmitter site.  FEMA’s EAS unit malfunctioned during this test, sending the EAS codes but not the audio message.  FEMA replaced their faulty EAS unit and tested the new unit about a week after the Nationwide EAS Test, so the issue causing our partially-failed test has already been corrected.

-Gary Timm
Wisconsin EAS Chair