A public safety initiative providing EAS, Weather & Amber Alerts showcasing terrestrial radio's "Always On" infrastructure.

Terrestrial broadcasters have a long history of investing in robust “Emergency Ready” infrastructure such as backup power generators and redundant equipment facilities. Just part of the reason radio can be counted on during natural disasters, unlike cellular delivered services.

NPR - Collaborative System Diagram

Some Talking Points


Goals achieved

Only one downlink required per market

Efficient use of satellite data due to message filtering

Another source of data for existing EAS ENDEC 

Content/Management

Federal Agencies - Originate Alerts

​Quu Portal - Stations define the Zip/Fips codes within their coverage area, and select which Alerts they wish to subscribe to

Quu Portal filters all messages, only forwarding messages for participating markets

On-Air Sequence of Events

 

At Federal Agency:

Alert is generated

At StayAlert Server:
Alert is received nationwide via satellite data network

Valid Alerts are pushed into Satellite Up-link

At Primary station:

Quu Multipoint device receives Alerts

Alert is broadcast on RDS/HD Radios

Alert is invisibly pushed to Secondary stations

At Secondary Station(s):

Quu Multipoint receiver monitors local stations looking for StayAlert "Beacon"

Multipoint receiver locks on Beacon and listens for Alerts

When Alerts are received, they are broadcast on RDS & HD Radio text displays 

Resources

Jump2Go: Online alert aggregation system (Java) hosted on AWS, Officially authorized by the U.S. Department of Justice to access Amber Alert data, EAS & NWS/NOAA database access.

Rich Rarey: Former Director of NPR Laboratories wrote the alert aggregation code and is well connected in and around DC bureaucratic circles including Homeland Security/FEMA. 

Sam Brown: Also worked at NPR, Sam coordinated station engineers participation in the original NPR Labs/FEMA project.

Tasks - Division of Labor

  

Quu Backend

U/I for stations to define which Zip & FIPS codes apply to their stations

Message Filtering to determine which markets receive specific messages 

Alert Aggregator

Complete EAS/NWS/Amber data collection, indexing for Zips/FIPS & assign a unique ID to it.
 

Multipoint Application

Primary location - Receive Alerts from Satellite receiver, query back-end to see if Alert is relevant.

Write message to OMB "Message Text file" RT will see it and push it to RDS Encoder ODA

RT will erase file

RDS Hardware

Our History with Alerting 

In 2012, our team was hired by the Department of Homeland Security/FEMA and NPR Laboratories to build an FM RDS Emergency Alert system to assist hard of hearing and deaf people.

The system consisted of the creation of a custom RDS protocol and custom hardware we designed and manufactured for the participating stations. We installed the system in 25 Gulf state radio stations in 2013.  Here’s a visual of the hardware and a note from the NPR Labs Director responsible for the project:

The Public Service Deliverable & Benefits

We designed a custom RDS encoder, that would deliver Alerts to a special receiver designed for deaf & hard of hearing people. As an Alert was received, a "Bed Shaker" was activated as well as a bright flashing light. This would alert the user and display the Alert text on an attached tablet included with the system. 

Going Forward

 

Stating the obvious

For me (Allen Talking) the principle goal is to reinforce the critical public services terrestrial radio has long provided. While radio has been slow to respond to competitive threats such as online services, this is a chance to tout our infrastructure strength, and also play a progressive role enabling products and services into future connect car initiatives. 

 

Create a National Resource

Collaborate with FEMA to provide a national alerting resource applicable to all radio stations.  FEMA has extended us an invitation to test our concepts in Washington DC, placing equipment at FEMA headquarters, and using an NPR station as the "Primary", and Hubbard's WTOP FM as the "Secondary" commercial participant.

Collaborate with NPR

NPR's PRSS (Public Radio Satellite System) is an excellent resource for data distribution.

It is not unreasonable to suggest a collaborative effort to pursue grant money to build a national network featuring the StayAlert concept.  

And Beyond

Create secured access portals, and license them to City, County & State governments granting them access to the RDS and HD Radio text in cars in case of emergencies.