Frequently Asked Questions
What EAS systems does this software work with?
All models we've encountered to date (Sage, TFT, Gorman, etc.) work with AlertReady. Anything that outputs on an RS-232 port will work. We have some pre-defined formats, but you can also define custom formats. For all intents, the product can capture any serial data stream using defined message termination strings or simple timeouts.
Are we able to send an EAS test from the software?
No. This is a receiving/capture program only. It logs all output messages from one or more ports on an EAS receiver or more than one receiver, but it doesn't act as a test sending product. Most EAS receivers have 2 COM ports minimum - one for output (for us and/or a printer) and one for master control if the station is required to send test messages. Those control ports use manufacturer supplied software (if available) to generate outgoing tests if a stations wants to do it from ao PC instead of a button on the EAS chassis itself (in our experience to date). If your station is not wired to automatically pre-empt programming when your lead station in your area triggers an alert, and you are triggering your own station alerts, many EAS receivers support a remote closure output. Where - if you had a push button connecting two wires together you could set off the pre-programmed test.
If your station can't be programmed to automatically fire a relay when you like, we have a lite version of our ControlReady software that can. If you are not at the physical station and want to trigger tests remotely - Broadcast Tools makes tiny tool devices taht give you a small box at your location that you can wire a push button to and the same device at the remote facility - listening over the Internet for a button hit. That box closes the relay connected to your EAS unit and you can remotely trigger the internal test. We sell those devices and you can buy them through other dealers as well.
How can we log and monitor EAS operation at a facility located miles away so we don't have to regularly drive to that location?
As far as tests go - you have the tests you receive from your main triggering radio station/entity and the ones you trigger yourself to test actual broadcast notification to your listeners.
Usually, there is one station in a region that sends out mandatory tests. It is the responsibility of all other stations in that area to be able to receive the tests, and most importantly prove that they are receiving them. In this respect, our application is ideal. By proof, the station must keep on file all received messages and make them available if inspected by the FCC. There doesn't seem to be any definition on the types of physical storage, so the industry seems to treat paper and electronic storage the same, since even if an inspector demands paper, you'd open the electronic archive of date/time stamped text messages and print anything he/she likes. So AlertReady logs the output proof that these tests were received and occurred.
Also when you trigger tests for broadcast compliance, your reciever will output the text message which we will capture as well as the receiver generally sends all transaction messages out the same port. Some receivers have multiple ports and give you some user configurability but by default receivers will spit out everything on the data/printer port.
The regs also generally require the engineer or duly chosen person to check the logs periodically, we believe once every two weeks, although this may vary from state to state - it's best to check with your local emergency management/EAS committee for the specifics. Granted, this is honor system naturally. Unfortunately in the industry it's not uncommon for those printers to jam, and no one seems to notice for quite some time - hence the move to computer based capture and archiving like the AlertReady.
For your remote needs, we can accomplish this in two ways if you want to comply with the letter of the law (disclaimer, we aren't lawyers...so check with your local EAS committee):
You'll need internet access at the facility - hopefully this in place. If it has any router that allows a LAN with connections to various computers/appliances, you can put a broadcast tools ESS unit($129) on the receiver (with a simple 4 conductor serial cable you can make) and that connects to the LAN/router at the station. This is configured to tunnel/send the data coming out of the receiver over the Internet to another ESS unit where ever you happen to be and this is where the computer can be. Now - in place of a 2nd ESS unit - they include some virtual COM port software you can put on the computer, and this software creates a fake serial port (which our software sees) and this serial port which suddenly shows up in the Windows device manager, is actually seeing all data being sent over the Internet from the ESS you've connected at the remote facility.
Now all you need is a little 2000/XP PC or laptop at your location always on/connected to the stream (we don't require a dedicated machine - we run from the system tray).
From a notifcation standpoint, our software can auto-email every received message to a list of recipients, so in addition to the benefit of capturing and logging (archiving) all received messages, you and your colleagues can keep abreast that your station/EAS box is receiving tests and actual messages by getting them in your email, which also provides another place for you to store a history of all received messages. By default on the machine running our software, we will save every captured message to a folder of your choice, with date and time stamps creating uniquely named and sortable text messages. And you can conceivably go for years and years capturing those messages in the folder, dragging and dropping them to folders by year or onto CD-ROM or any permanent storage you like.
How can I comply with the requirement to "sign off" on EAS received messages?
The importance of EMAIL is that IF the engineer can't physically go to the station to see the files/paper at the facility, it can be legally met (in our opinion, but we are not lawyers) that if you are receiving actual email copies of the messages that are coming from your physical receiver the MOMENT they occur, then you are going beyond the legal requirement to periodically check and sign off on received logs.
It is also possible to locate the PC at the remote facility if you don't mind having a PC running there. If it's configured to email all received traffic, you'll be notified by email on every received message, and you can use remote services like logmein.com to remotely manage the PC/software, and/or retrieve stored archived messages.
I want to be able to use the manufacturer supplied software that came with the receiver to conduct tests and trigger EAS notification events for weather and local emergencies - how can I do this?
If you are co-located with the receiver, you can put any manufacturer software on the same computer as AlertReady as long as you have a several serial port on the computer to configure with that software and so it can be connected to the master control (aka INPUT) serial port on the EAS unit.
Note: If you are not triggering EAS alerts for other stations, this may not be needed. But if you do or want to, here is some additional info. If you need to run the manufacturer software at a remote facility along with the AlertReady those ESS units from Broadcast Tools can work but we recommend using TWO ESS units (one at the computer, and one on the receive port on the ESS unit). This way, the manufacturer supplied test sending software (if you need to use that 3rd party software) is communicating on a real serial port on the computer and not the virtual COM software that we can use (to save you the cost of buying two ESS units). In this fashion, the EAS management software from your manufacturer connects to a COM port on the computer which connects to an ESS unit, which goes over the Internet, and connects to another ESS unit on the back of the EAS unit. These are completely separate from the ESS unit you'd use to transmit the message output from the receiver back over the Internet if your AlertReady software is located at another facility.
We want to monitor multiple EAS units in the same facility and/or we have multiple facilities located around the area we want to monitor and capture. Can we do this?
Yes, the site license version of AlertReady allows you to have a single computer capturing up to 16 port/receivers at the same time. The site license also lets you run AlertReady on more than one computer if you don't want to or can't bring all the connections to a single PC - that's completely based on your need for convenience. If you only have a single receiver to monitor/capture - whether or not it's located in the same facility or a remote location, you only need the single user/port version of the software. To handle any remote capture applications where your EAS unit is not in the same building as you or the computer running AlertReady - consult the other FAQs that discuss how one or more ESS unit from Broadcast Tools can be used to create a virtual serial cable going over the Internet regardless of distance whether it's 1000 feet or a 1000 miles.
How is a site license defined with AlertReady?
The site only applies to where the software is located.
So a single site license would let you run the AlertReady on one computer at your site to capture up to 16 receivers located anywhere (at facility or from remote facilities using those Broadcast Tools transmitter/receivers).
The site license also lets you put the software on more than one computer. Since the hardware requirements are so light, some customers want to capture on two computers for extra backup (i.e. If Windows XP/Home boots, our software is happy. Vista will work but we don't like Vista). Sometimes a station wants more than one computer - maybe one computer capturing the local receiver, and a 2nd computer capturing the remote receiver at the other site. And since any computer can capture more than one port, if a station wants to have a separate PC for the local station equipment, and a separate PC to capture the EAS from other (stations) they sometimes double/criss cross the connections so both computers are capturing both streams for both the benefit of two separate machines and redundancy. The site license covers all these scenarios - you could have 50 computers capturing 500 streams - as long as the software doesn't leave the building where it's running - you only need one site license.
Are discounts available if we have to buy software for multiple facilities?
If you need to have computers running the software physically located in different stations, you do need to purchase a license for each location. If you are a group, we offer discounts up to 50% off the list price depending on quantity. Please call. Some groups don't want to centralize capture on one machine with remotely connected units. If they plan to put a computer at each station so each station is capturing/archiving and sending emails from a PC at their own facility, then each facility needs a single user or site license copy depending on the number of receivers or computers they want to run the software on. Some groups put a computer at each station so local personnel have thier own locally maintained archive/email system - but also split the data on the receiver, running it through an ESS or similar unit so the group headwquarters can have a single computer capturing all the stations (each station feeding a separate folder on the HQ computer's desktop) thus backing up the local personnel's systems and providing oversight for facilities that aren't full time staffed.