Indianapolis - May 25, 2007 - The Society of Broadcast Engineers (SBE) announced its opposition to the use of real or live NWRSAME codes for system tests of the public warning system by National Weather Service (NWS)/NOAA Weather Radio (NWR) and some local authorities.
Alerts from the NWS, some local authorities and the Emergency Alert System (EAS) using real emergency event codes, when no actual emergency exists, have recently been used in some communities to test consumer receivers. The NWS is recommending the practice be expanded nationwide. While stated NWS policy establishes that approval for NWS live code testing is up to the state and local EAS committees, some committees are not being consulted or do not understand that they may decline the request. Local emergency officials also may not fully understand the implications of the request and may participate without realizing the serious negative results. The SBE asserts that these cry-wolf alerts will potentially cause public alarm, weaken confidence in the EAS for real alerts and discourage broadcaster''s involvement with volunteer EAS programs.
Broadcasters and cable systems decode the EAS data and send the information directly to scrolling messages on TV screens and radios. One result of live-code tests would be that TV''s viewed by the deaf and hard of hearing, and TVs in public places would not show any indication that the message is not a real alert. In addition, those receiving emergency messages through the Internet, PDAs, cell phones, programmable road signs, highway advisory radio, lottery terminals and shopping center marquee signs will not know the message was simply a test. The SBE says the negative effect of live-code testing outweighs the benefits of testing the public''s weather alert radios.
The SBE notes that there is a national effort to update EAS and NWR data standards with a technology called Common Alerting Protocol (CAP). CAP will allow a visual scroll of the same information as in the audio message, and the SBE suggests that such a technology--when in common use--will be better suited to live-code tests.