TVTechnology: AWARN To The Rescue

TVTechnology: AWARN To The Rescue

Advanced emergency warning is on the way thanks to a 3.0 commitment from major broadcasters
Advanced emergency warning is on the way thanks to a 3.0 commitment from major broadcasters. Call it coincidence. Call it synchronicity. Call it whatever you want, but today three items crossed my desk that left me shaking my head.
First, Reuters’ Brian Snyder reported in “Lack of power, phones hampering rescue efforts after Hurricane Michael,” that hundreds of volunteers from Texas had headed to Florida to help locate more than 1,100 people—mostly in Panama City— who have gone missing following Hurricane Michael.Read the full article here >
The ATSC 3.0 Emergency Alert: A Boon For Communities And Local TV Stations (VIDEA Corporate Blog)

The ATSC 3.0 Emergency Alert: A Boon for Communities and Local TV Stations (VIDEA Corporate Blog)

It happens after so many disasters: questions about the performance of emergency alert systems. Victims often complain that alerts came too late or not at all. In California’s catastrophic Camp Fire, the Cal OES State and Fire rescue chief told WNCT, “We need a communications system, not just alert and warning, that is resilient and reliable for not only the public but for us in public service.”

Read the full article here >

Scientific American: How Will Trump’s Emergency Text Alerts Work?

Scientific American: How Will Trump’s Emergency Text Alerts Work?

By Dina Fine Maron on September 20, 2018

Responding to fears of an imminent Soviet nuclear attack, in 1951 Pres. Harry Truman set up a national system enabling the president to quickly notify the public of an impending national security threat via a cross-country relay chain of AM radio stations. It used characteristic blaring warning tones and became a precursor of the Emergency Alert System still in use today. “There are certain stations across every market that listen for those tones and then retransmit the alert to other stations in their market,” says John Lawson, an emergency alert expert who has advised the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) on its modern warning systems.

Read the full article here >

TVTechnology: Hurricane Florence In A 5G World

One can only hope that wireless companies and broadcasters put aside turf wars for the sake of public safety
Oct 16, 2018

COWS and COLTS and Goats, oh my! No Dorothy, this isn’t Oz. It’s the Carolinas and Georgia as Hurricane Florence bore down on its way to landfall.

An interesting article by Angela Moscaritolo in PC Magazine online, “How Mobile Carriers Are Responding to Hurricane Florence,” described the steps carriers like Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile were taking to prepare for the aftermath of the hurricane.

She wrote: “…Verizon said it’s readying a fleet of mobile equipment—including Cells on Wheels (COWS), Cells on Light Trucks (COLTS), and generators on a trailer (Goats)—which can be rolled into hard-hit areas in need of extra network capacity.” The other carriers were taking similar steps, the article said.

Read the full article here >

CTA Joins AWARN Alliance to Boost Advanced Emergency Alerting

WASHINGTON, DC, July 18, 2017 – The Consumer Technology Association (CTA)™ is joining broadcasters, technology companies, and public safety agencies to develop and deploy the Advanced Warning and Response Network (AWARN), the world’s most advanced emergency alerting system, as part of the shift to Next-Generation television.

By leveraging the powerful new features of Next-Gen TV, the AWARN Alliance is creating a system that can deliver geo-targeted, rich-media emergency messages to a wide range of enabled consumer devices, including 4K Ultra HD television sets, tablets, smart phones, and connected cars. AWARN alerts will provide a major upgrade to the alerting systems available to the American public today.

Television broadcasters and consumer technology companies are planning for the voluntary adoption of Next Gen TV transmission, based on the ATSC 3.0 technical standard, pending approval by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

“Having CTA assume a leading role in the AWARN Alliance is a major step forward for advanced emergency alerting. CTA represents the device makers that are essential to creating the Next Gen TV ‘ecosystem’ that is the backbone for delivering the new alerts. CTA also brings enormous technical and operational know-how in helping us create the voluntary roadmap to an end-to-end system,” said John Lawson, executive director of the AWARN Alliance.

“The AWARN Alliance represents the market-based innovation that CTA embraces,” said CTA President and CEO Gary Shapiro. “CTA and the Alliance have already joined forces with the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) and America’s Public Television Stations (APTS) in requesting the FCC adopt minimal new rules for the voluntary implementation of Next Gen TV. We are happy to extend that support to help bring to life one of the key public benefits of Next Gen TV: advanced emergency alerting with AWARN.”

Next Gen TV was launched in South Korea on May 31 and is on track for initial launches in the U.S. in the 2018-19 timeframe, assuming that the FCC rulemaking concludes this year as expected.

Examples of the rich media alerts enabled by the AWARN system include photos, surveillance video, storm tracks, inundation maps, evacuation routes, airborne chemical plume models, and safety instructions. The system also can provide shelter locations, hospital wait times, and other recovery information after a disaster, even if cellular networks and the electric grid are down. In addition, the system can deliver Blue Alerts and safety information such as highway hazards.

The AWARN Alliance membership includes commercial and public broadcasters who reach over 85 percent of U.S. households, the National Association of Broadcasters, LG Electronics, the Interactive Television Alliance, and a growing number of U.S. and Korean technology companies and service providers.

A new AWARN Advisory Committee of major alert originators was just announced. The Committee includes The Federal Emergency Management Agency, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the National Weather Service, and the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials.

CTA will collaborate with the AWARN Alliance and Advisory Committee in the second half of the year to focus on technical and operational details of the advance alerting system in preparation for the U.S. launch of Next Gen TV products and services.


Members of the AWARN Alliance, as of July 18, 2017

Broadcasters (Commercial)

Capitol Broadcasting Company

Pearl TV*

Sinclair Broadcast Group

Broadcasters (Public)

Kentucky Educational Television

KPBS/California State University-San Diego

UNC-TV/University of North Carolina

WKAR/Michigan State University

WNET/New York

Technology Companies

LG Electronics/Zenith

Lokita Solutions/DigiCap

ONE Media

Monroe Electronics/Digital Alert Systems

Triveni Digital


Consumer Technology Association

Interactive Television Alliance

National Association of Broadcasters

Service Providers

AEA Implementation Team (ATSC)

Convergence Services, Inc.

MHz Networks

Wiley Rein, LLC

* Pearl TV is a business organization of U.S. broadcast companies whose membership, comprising more than 220 network-affiliated TV stations, consists of nine of the largest broadcast companies in America including: Cox Media Group, the E.W. Scripps Company, Graham Media Group, Hearst Television Inc., Meredith Local Media Group, Nexstar Media Group, Raycom Media, and TEGNA, Inc.

KBS UHD Broadcasting

KBS will usher in an era of ultra-high-definition quality terrestrial broadcasting starting in May. The use of domestically developed new devices and technology has attracted keen international attention.

Trial broadcasts began last month ahead of the formal launch of an ultra-high-definition television service scheduled for this May. The drama “Descendants of the Sun” and special documentaries are airing on the UHD channels of KBS 1 and 2 TV. An international conference was held to introduce the UHD broadcasting industry to Korea’s technology at its center. Key U.S. broadcasting industry figures attended and showed great interest in Korea’s UHD terrestrial broadcasts.

Congressional Testimony: AWARN to Save Lives

Members of Congress heard all about AWARN’s benefits during the U.S. House Communications and Technology Subcommittee’s May 17 hearing on emergency alerting. NAB CTO Sam Matheny testified on behalf of the industry, and his compelling demonstration of  AWARN’s capabilities during the hearing was well received. Matheny highlighted how AWARN’s “public safety benefits of Next Gen TV and advanced emergency alerting can significantly improve the content, pervasiveness, accessibility and reliability of America’s emergency alerting systems and hopefully save lives.”

Download the full statement from Chief Technology Officer Sam Matheny

AWARN a ‘Rare Opportunity,’ Alliance Tells FCC

In comments filed May 9 with the Federal Communications Commission in response to the FCC’s Next Gen TV Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, the AWARN Alliance “urges the Commission to adopt the proposed rules to allow the permissive use of the Next Generation broadcast television transmission standard and hasten the day when the American public can take full advantage of AWARN’s many benefits.”

 “AWARN presents a rare opportunity to dramatically improve America’s public safety communications capability. AWARN alerting can provide this public benefit by dual-use of the nation’s existing television broadcasting transmission capacity and the new technology of Next Gen TV,” states Executive Director John Lawson on behalf of the alliance.

Download the full AWARN Alliance Comments on the Next Gen TV NPRM below:

Advanced Emergency Alerts to be Unveiled at NAB Show 2017

AWARN Alliance Membership More than Doubles After One Year

Washington, D.C., April 18, 2017 – Marking its one-year anniversary, the AWARN Alliance will demonstrate what could become the future of emergency alerting in the United States and other countries at the NAB 2017 Show in Las Vegas next week.

The Advanced Warning and Response Network will leverage the powerful new features of the coming Next Generation Television technical standard, also known as ATSC 3.0, to dramatically upgrade the content, pervasiveness, and reliability of disaster warning and recovery information.

“Geo-targeted, rich media AWARN alerts will give people a whole new level of life-saving information, literally at their fingertips. AWARN has the ability to deliver not only text, but photos, surveillance video, storm tracks, plume models, evacuation routes, shelter-in-place instructions, hospital wait times, power outages, and many other forms of vital content,” said AWARN Alliance Executive Director John Lawson.

These capabilities will far exceed emergency systems available to the American public today, primarily the Emergency Alert System (EAS), rooted in the Cold War, with its familiar tones and bars for radio and television, and Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) text messages, currently limited to 90 characters, distributed by wireless carriers. “Because of the flexibility of ATSC 3.0, AWARN can easily transmit multilingual and accessible media as well,” Lawson said.

AWARN will leverage other powerful features of Next Generation Television, including the ability to “wake up” devices, robust indoor and mobile reception, personalization, and integration with hybrid networks. AWARN alerts can also be delivered to mobile devices even if the cellular network is overloaded or the electric grid is down.

AWARN Alliance Expands

The AWARN Alliance is a coalition of commercial and public broadcasters, consumer electronics and broadcast technology companies, national trade groups, and service providers who have come together to develop and deploy AWARN. Membership in the Alliance has more than doubled since its founding just one year ago, adding public broadcasters, national groups, tech companies, and law firms.

The Alliance, along with the Consumer Technology Association, the National Association of Broadcasters, and America’s Public Televisions Stations, is a signatory to the April 2016 “joint petition” to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requesting rules to allow broadcasters to begin transmitting in the ATSC 3.0 standard on a voluntary basis. The FCC approved a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for that purpose on February 23 of this year.

Advanced Alert Demonstrations Using Next Generation Television

A key goal of the Alliance is to develop models that can be adopted seamlessly as ATSC 3.0 is launched by early adopter stations in 2018. The Alliance is making steady progress toward that goal, including the demonstrations at the NAB Show in Las Vegas next week:

  • AMBER: With the support of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, WJLA in Arlington, Virginia, and LG Electronics and its Zenith affiliate, the Alliance has produced an advanced AMBER alert demo.
  • Tornado: With ABC 33/40 in Birmingham, Alabama and LG/Zenith, the Alliance has produced a tornado warning based on the real events of April 27, 2011, a ‘super outbreak’ that claimed more than 250 lives in the Birmingham-Tuscaloosa area of Alabama.
  • Chemical spill: And with WJLA, LG/Zenith, and Digital Alert Systems, the Alliance has produced a “HazMat” chemical spill alert, loosely based on the May 2016 CSX train derailment in Northeast Washington, DC.

Triveni Digital also supported production of each demo. Currently WRAL in Raleigh, North Carolina, with the support of UNC-TV in Chapel Hill, is producing an active shooter alert that includes encrypted content for first responders.

Demos and Meeting at NAB Show 2017

The three prototypes encoded by LG for ATSC 3.0 can be viewed at the Next-Gen TV Hub, booth L11, in the Grand Lobby of Central Hall at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

To test and demonstrate broadcasters’ flexibility in implementing advanced alerting, NAB PILOT has re-encoded two of the alerts as HTML5 apps that can be broadcast through the ATSC 3.0 signal and received on tablets via a home gateway device. Those demos can be viewed at Futures Park in NAB PILOT booth N1838FP in North Hall.

The Alliance is also hosting an executive breakfast on Wednesday, April 26 from 8-9 am PT in Westgate Conference Rooms 1-2 that focuses on synergies between AWARN alerts and Next Gen TV business models. Contact AWARN Alliance Deputy Director Fiona James at [email protected] to register.

Members (Including Key Subsidiaries) of the AWARN Alliance, as of April 18, 2017

Advanced Emergency Alerting Implementation Team, Airwavz, America’s Public Television Stations, Arland Communications, Convergence Services, Inc., Capitol Broadcasting Company/WRAL, Digital Alert Systems, DigiCap USA, the Interactive Television Alliance, Kentucky Educational Television, KPBS/California State University-San Diego, LG Electronics, Lokita Solutions, MHz Networks, Monroe Electronics, National Association of Broadcasters, ONE Media, Pearl TV (joint venture of eight of the largest TV station groups), Sinclair Broadcast Group, Triveni Digital, UNC-TV, Vegas PBS, Wiley Rein LLP, WKAR/Michigan State University, WNET/Thirteen, and Zenith Electronics.

Advanced Alerting Advisory Committee Planned

The AWARN Alliance also is forming an Advanced Alerting Advisory Committee. “The Alliance has consulted extensively with public safety organizations in producing the first demonstration alerts. To convene more structured user groups as template design moves forward, we are in active discussions with multiple alert originator organizations to form the advisory committee,” said AWARN Alliance Deputy Director Fiona James.


Contact: John Lawson
AWARN Alliance
Office +1 (703) 347-7070
Mobile +1 (202) 302-1654
[email protected]

Key AWARN Resource: Social Science Research From The National Academies Of Sciences

Key AWARN Resource: Social Science Research from the National Academies of Sciences

By John M. Lawson, AWARN Alliance Executive Director

Creating advanced alerting is not just about engineering and bandwidth. It’s also about social science. Ultimately, the most elegant technology is only effective if people understand and respond to messages and take action to minimize danger. Later this year, AWARN Alliance user groups will build on our alerting prototypes and create replicable templates and protocols. We hope to have social scientists at the table.

The AWARN Alliance was invited to make a presentation to the Committee on the Future of Emergency Alert and Warning Systems of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, which met on the campus of the University of California, San Diego. The committee of distinguished academics and industry and public safety professionals is completing a report funded by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Science & Technology Directorate. They will be recommending future research directions, and I was honored to brief them on the Advanced Warning and Response Network and our research needs.

Building on a Foundation of Alerting Research

NAS LOGO text[1]

A major focus of the National Academies of Sciences (NAS) committee has been the 90-character Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA). According to a 2015 study for NAS by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START), longer messages, as well as messages that change the traditional order that content is presented, are more effective. The study also investigated additional elements that could be included in a WEA. For a 280-characater mock WEA, adding apps and hyperlinks appeared beneficial, whereas adding maps, did not. Both elements “merit additional research.”

START’s and other social science research has examined alerting in what might be called an environment of “scarcity,” where bandwidth, and therefore, message content is limited. The problem of “milling,” in which people delay taking action because information is insufficient or unverified, is a well-documented alerting shortfall. We believe that geo-targeted, rich-media, and personalized AWARN Alerts can mitigate the problem of milling and improve alerting at many levels.

Possible New Research Areas

In my presentation to the Committee, I outlined some possible research areas in an environment of what I call rich-media “abundance” that could help us create the most effective AWARN alerts:

  • Explore the social science of rich-media, interactive alerting,
  • Identify and inventory rich-media assets of alert originators,
  • Align alert originator assets with ATSC 3.0 capabilities, and
  • Drive latency out of the alerting chain to use AWARN for Earthquake Early Warnings.

We commend the NAS and their Committee on the Future of Emergency Alert and Warning Systems. It is encouraging for the AWARN Alliance to be invited to participate in their important dialogue. The past, current, and future work of this vital group will inform the work of the AWARN Alliance as we move beyond prototypes to the actual deployment of next-generation alerts.


AWARN Advisory Council