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PR- 250-04
September 23, 2004


New York City's Emergency Alert System Is Officially Active; Six Sites Across the City Can Now Immediately Disseminate Information to the Electronic News Media

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg today announced emergency public communications systems for New York City, which ensures that vital information can be broadcast to the general public through the electronic news media instantaneously when necessary.  The first component is the New York City Emergency Alert System (EAS), which enables the Mayor to disseminate critical information to New Yorkers from anywhere in the City through analog radio and television stations and cable television systems in New York City. The second component is the establishment of six facilities in three boroughs where City officials can conduct news conferences, which will be transmitted live to the media through fiber optic lines.  Joining Mayor Bloomberg at the announcement were Emergency Management Commissioner Joseph Bruno, Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly, Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta, Health Commissioner Thomas R. Frieden, Mayoral Press Secretary Edward Skyler, Information Technology and Telecommunications First Deputy Commissioner Larry Knafo, New York State Broadcasters Association Senior Vice-President Richard Novik, WABC Radio General Manager Tim McCarthy, WCBS-AM Radio News Director Tim Scheld, WCBS-TV General Manager Lew Leone and News Director Dianne Doctor as well as News Directors Dan Forman from WNBC-TV, Scott Matthews from WNYW/WWOR, Kenny Plotnik from WABC-TV and Karen Scott from WPIX-TV.

"Central to managing any emergency is getting important information to the public quickly," said Mayor Bloomberg.  "This emergency public communications network means that New Yorkers can rest assured that they will get the information they need during an emergency.  Everyone who worked on this project, especially Kevin Plumb of WABC Radio, Mark Olkowski of WINS Radio, and Richard Novik of the New York State Broadcasters Association, deserves the thanks of all New Yorkers."

"Broadcasters have an obligation to serve the public interest and I can think of nothing that serves the public more than broadcasting vital information in a timely manner," said New York State Broadcasters Association Senior Vice President Richard Novik.

"We have worked hard to establish a variety of options for the Mayor to communicate with New Yorkers in the event of an emergency," said Press Secretary Edward Skyler.  "Hopefully we will never need to use any of them, but prudence dictates we have the capability if necessary.  We have had great cooperation with the news media and the New York State Association of Broadcasters because although we may have competing goals on a day-to-day basis, everyone wants to do their part to help New York City in its times of need."

The New York City EAS is based upon Memorandums of Understanding between the City, WABC-AM, WFAN-AM, WINS-AM and WCBS-AM.  It can be activated by the City to disseminate critical information to New Yorkers in the event of an emergency.  The Mayor can activate the City EAS from an EAS device itself or by phone.  The EAS works by a relay method - an emergency message is radioed to four local radio stations - WABC-AM, WINS-AM, WCBS-AM and WFAN-AM - known as Local Primary Ones (LP1s).  All other analog radio and television stations and cable television systems are required by the FCC to electronically monitor two LP1s in New York City.  Typically, there are only two LP1s, but the New York City EAS plan expanded it to four for added redundancy.  Once a message airs on a LP1, equipment at other area analog radio and television stations and cable television systems will capture the EAS message and can rebroadcast that message.  Under FCC rules, retransmission of local and state EAS alerts are strictly voluntary by broadcasters; only a Presidential EAS message must be broadcast by all analog radio and television stations and cable television systems.  The City's EAS plan was approved by the State Emergency Communications Committee on April 29, 2004 and was accepted by the FCC.  In addition, the City has partnered with the New York State Broadcasters Association to review local EAS monitoring assignments to ensure that national, state and local EAS messages are appropriately broadcast to the general public.  The City will also install special EAS equipment at the 911 call center and the 311 citizen service center to ensure that the City's frontline call takers will have the latest information in the event of an emergency.

The EAS was originally known as the Emergency Broadcast System (EBS), and was established in 1963 by President John F. Kennedy.  The EBS only applied to broadcast radio and television stations.  In 1994, the FCC replaced the EBS with the EAS, which expanded participants to cable companies as well.  The EAS was expanded again in 1997 to include wireless cable systems.  Currently, direct broadcast satellite, digital television and satellite digital audio radio services have no EAS requirements. 

In August of 2004, the FCC began to review the how emerging broadcast technology could affect EAS and that only a Presidential message is required for rebroadcast - rebroadcast of state and local messages, while encourage, are solely voluntary.  The City will file comments with the FCC detailing the improvements needed to the EAS that will improve this critical tool to provide vital information to the public.

The Mayor's Press Office has also established six sites around the City that can reach the electronic news media immediately with a broadcast quality video and audio. These sites are set up to immediately disseminate a live feed of an announcement to the City's electronic news media in an emergency.   The Mayor's Press Office, in conjunction with the emergency broadcast engineer and the City's public safety officials, will continue to identify new technology and methods to communicate to the public during an emergency.  In addition, the City will activate more sites across the City that can immediately broadcast to the electronic news media. An emergency broadcast engineer will manage all aspects of the emergency public communications system.


Edward Skyler / Jonathan Werbell   (212) 788-2958

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