A new turnkey solution for the Mobile Emergency Alert System (M-EAS) made a timely debut at the national meeting of the Association of Public Television Stations (APTS), where service for public safety was a major theme on the agenda. M-EAS, co-developed by PBS and field tested at three public television stations, will further expand the long-time role of public television in reaching citizens in emergency situations.
Featured speakers at the APTS Public Media Summit 2014, which took place Feb. 23-25 in Washington, included U.S. Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), Damon Penn of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and Charles Murph of the State of Alabama Law Enforcement Agency. They all spoke of the importance of broadcasters in emergency communications and highlighted opportunities to boost that role.
Remarks Put M-EAS in Context
Perhaps the strongest connecting between public media and public safety was made by Sen. Collins, who pointed out the importance of emergency information from the Maine Public Broadcasting Network to the citizens of her state, including those who work on the water and depend upon marine forecasts. She indicated that emergency services were one of the key factors in the strong public support that public media enjoys in Maine.
Sen. Collins, who has authored a bill to upgrade the U.S. Integrated Public Alert and Warning System, was presented with the CPB Thought Leader Award by Patricia Harrison, president and CEO of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
The remarks on public safety set the stage perfectly for the M-EAS presence at the meeting. A live demonstration of M-EAS presented for summit attendees was introduced from the stage by former APTS President John Lawson, principal of Convergence Services, Inc. and John Taylor, vice president, public affairs for LG Electronics USA, a conference sponsor..
For the M-EAS demonstration, Harris Broadcast, Monroe Electronics and Triveni Digital showcased how their commercially-available equipment—already in-place at many TV stations for the legacy Emergency Alert System and the new service of Mobile DTV—has been integrated and upgraded to receive emergency alerts and retransmit them using M-EAS. The live alert signals were received on LG mobile phones.
The M-EAS solution was especially relevant because many public TV station executives and their community boards are weighing critical decisions about whether to sell or retain some or all of their spectrum at the upcoming FCC spectrum auctions. The opportunity to offer M-EAS as the basis for a major upgrade to the nation’s fragile and fragmented emergency communications system was greeted with great interest by the APTS summit attendees as possibly another reason to retain their spectrum.
The next day, Harris, Monroe, Triveni Digital and LG set up the M-EAS turnkey demo across town for the National Association of Broadcasters 2014 State Leadership Conference Reception and Technology Showcase. There, the turnkey solution was also met with a positive response from the commercial broadcasters and federal officials in attendance.