SR/SOD 99-1
6-1-99

Technical Attachment

Some Helpful Hints about the Console Replacement System (CRS)

Mark A. Rose, CRS Focal Point
NWSO Nashville, TN

1. Introduction

In light of the plethora of problems virtually every office in the country has encountered with CRS, it has been recognized that many CRS focal point personnel might find a "helpful hints" summary particularly useful.

This summary will explore three specific topics: the CRS Initial Database Utility (IDU), more commonly referred to as the "ASCII Database," the Graphical User Interface (GUI), and CRS product formatters, specifically CrsComms.

The hints given here are not guaranteed to work at every office. This is merely a summary of some trial-and-error results obtained in the successful installation and operation of the CRS at NWSO Nashville, TN.

2. ASCII Database

Hint #1: Developing and modifying the IDU

The ASCII database is best constructed using a program suite that can be downloaded from the CRS Information Page at "http://www.nws.noaa.gov/oso/oso1/oso12/crs.htm" called "Initial Database Utility," or IDU. Since the ASCII database is such a large file (on the order of 40-50 kilobytes) it is recommended that all CRS focal points utilize this program suite in order to construct and, at least in the beginning, make additional changes to the ASCII database, rather than manually editing the file itself. However, once one becomes familiar with the ASCII database it is easier to edit it directly without using the IDU software.

Hint #2: Setting up watches and warnings

For watch and warning messages, it is best to go ahead and set up default Specific Area Message Encoder (SAME) and 1050 Hertz tone alerts in order to hasten the warning process.

However, for products that do not always get alerted, such as the Flood Watch (FLA), Flood Warning (FLW), Non-Precipitation Warning (NPW), Winter Storm Message (WSW), and others, it is best not to set automatic alerts. Since these products are usually not as critical as, say, a tornado warning, it is best that these alerts be inserted at the GUI before transmitting the product.

This is to avoid accidentally transmitting alerts that wake up listeners during the middle of the night to inform them that a winter storm warning has been canceled (which actually happened at Nashville).

Hint #3: Pre-setting area selections

For many products that usually receive the same area selections, such as the hourly weather roundup, climate messages, travelers forecasts, and zone and extended forecasts, you can program default area selections in the ASCII database. This will save the CRS operators some time when manually recording these products by eliminating the area selection steps. Of course, this preselection is not recommended for products whose area selections may vary, such as short-term forecasts, statements, watches, and warnings.

Default settings for listening area codes will be overridden when products are sent via STORMI, Airwave, or CrsComms, however, as CRS will route the product to the affected transmitter based on its FIPS or zone coding.

3. GUI

Hint #1: Weekly radio tests

One useful hint here deals with recording the weekly radio tests (Routine Weekly and Routine Monthly Tests). Instead of manually recording this product, it has proven much easier to save the text of the test message onto a computer disk as an ASCII file. From the disk, the test message can be loaded into CRS. To do this, set up the message as you normally would, but before clicking "Contents" to record the message, highlight "Diskette" instead of "Microphone." This will queue a menu which will access the computer disk and from which you can select the message you want. (This method works for Long I.Ds, or any other message you might not want to record manually.)

It is best to set up the ASCII database so that each test message has a different filename, and that each transmitter have only its test message included in its product suite. Also, using transmitter codes instead of the individual county FIPS codes will insure that no overlapping of tests occurs. In other words, the test message for transmitter 1 will only play on transmitter 1 and not on transmitter 2, even though the two listening areas may overlap.

CrsComms (covered in the next section) now performs the weekly tests using a single button click. However, offices that do not use CrsComms may discover simpler ways of doing the tests than the method described in the previous paragraph, especially those with large numbers of transmitters.

In the ASCII database, it is best to set the expiration time and periodicity to, say, 15 minutes. That way, each message has the chance to play once, then drop out of the cycle. It is recommended to not permanently store these message in the GUI under a timed sequence. CRS has been known, for no apparent reason, to slide into sequence products that are not intended to be there. There are not many listeners who would enjoy being awakened at three o'clock on a Sunday morning to listen to a weekly radio test.

Hint #2: Editing, saving, and downloading the dictionary

After making entries in the CRS dictionary, you must download the dictionary files to the transmitter, then save (and preferably backup) the files.

You should download the dictionary files to the transmitters after you are finished and have saved the last word. (Do not clear the window.) Instead, click the "Compile" button, then click "Download." Use the arrow keys to toggle up and down the drop down menu. When the proper selection is highlighted, hit "Enter." You can then begin the download. Please note that each transmitter will be temporarily taken offline while the files are being downloaded.

Next, you should save and backup the dictionary files. In order to save the files, there are two batch files you must have stored in the "/crs/bin" directory on the CRS hard drive. At Nashville, they are called "dict_sav" and "dict_sav.flp." The first file will write the dictionary files to the hard drive, the second will save them to a computer disk. To access these files, you must open a UNIX shell, and log onto CRS as the superuser.

Should the dictionary files disappear from the GUI, there are two more batch files you can use to re-load the files from the hard drive and/or computer disk. They are "dict_res" and "dict_res.flp." Again, the first file will load the files from the hard drive, the second will load them from a computer disk.

It is suggested that only the CRS Focal Points and ESAs/ETs make changes to the dictionary, as significant damage can occur once someone logs onto CRS as the superuser.

4. CRS Product Formatters

Before beginning this section, it must be noted that all PC-based CRS product formatters have been installed at Nashville. These programs include STORMI, Airwave/Bubble, and CrsComms. While all three program suites are fine programs, and it is evident the respective programmers exhibited tremendous dedication in writing them, it was found that CrsComms was the most user-friendly, most reliable, and most easily installable of the three major program suites.

CrsComms can be set up to receive products from AFOS or from a Local Area Network (LAN). The program can be enabled to format nearly all products for CRS (zone forecasts, climate messages, short-term forecasts, statements, watches, and warnings), and also runs an hourly weather roundup. CrsComms sends its formatted products directly to CRS without the use of any additional interface.

Hint #1: Short-term Forecasts

One limit of all product formatters is that if a short-term forecast product is divided into more than one group, some or all transmitters may receive multiple short-term forecasts. This will occur if a transmitter's listening area is covered by two or more short-term forecast groups. The only work-around is to create short-term forecasts with only one zone group. Otherwise, the public would have to listen to multiple short-term forecasts, or the CRS operator will have to read the short-term forecast manually.

Hint #2: Zone forecasts

With CrsComms one has several options in creating zone forecast formats. The program will extract zones from the zone forecast product, and will even append the extended forecast to the zone forecast to create one product.

To avoid the same dilemma presented by the short-term forecast, specifically, having two or more zone forecasts on each transmitter, the user can configure CrsComms to use the "core county" method. This method will have only the zone group affecting the county central to the listening area (usually the county containing the NOAA weather radio transmitter) extracted from the zone forecast product. Although different zone forecast groups may affect one listening area, this will prevent program cycles from running too long due to multiple zone forecasts.

Hint #3: Scheduling products

CrsComms also has a scheduler, where certain products may be set to go on CRS at pre-selected times. At Nashville, the travelers forecast and climate message are edited on the LAN, and the CrsComms scheduler accesses them at pre-selected times, formats them, and sends them to CRS. Template files for each product specify expiration times and listening areas.

5. Office Instructions

Included are two attachments which represent sections in Nashville's NOAA weather radio manual.

Attachment 1 is entitled "NWR Program Format." It is a summary of all products programmed in the CRS IDU, whether they are CRS or manually recorded, which must be tone alerted, the suites in which they play, and which products act as triggers. This summary is excellent for a quick reference for all CRS operators.

Notice that the product MEMWRKEFP, the extended forecast, is not run by CrsComms, but is appended to the zone forecast product. The MEMWRKEFP, locally, has been programmed into the IDU should the zone forecast products have to be manually recorded. This inclusion prevents the CRS operator from having to read the extended forecast for each transmitter.

Attachment 2 is entitled simply "CRS." It is a set of step-by-step instructions on routine CRS operations. These instructions have proven far more useful than the CRS site user's manual presented to the field.

Attachment 1 - NWR Program Format

Product Name Program Voice Alert General

Suite

High

Suite

Exclusive

Suite

MEMHWRBNA Hourly Weather Roundup Normal CRS No Yes Yes No
MEMNOWBNA Nowcast As issued Optional No Yes Yes Yes
MEMBRTBNA Travelers Forecast Normal CRS No Yes No No
MEMZFPBNA Zone Forecast for BNA Normal CRS No Yes Yes No
MEMZFPBGV Zone Forecast for BGV Normal CRS No Yes Yes No
MEMZFPCOK Zone Forecast for COK Normal CRS No Yes Yes No
MEMZFPLAW Zone Forecast for LAW Normal CRS No Yes Yes No
MEMZFPWAV Zone Forecast for WAV Normal CRS No Yes Yes No
MEMZFPCLK Zone Forecast for CLK Normal CRS No Yes Yes No
MEMWRKEFP Extended Forecast Normal Manual No Yes Yes No
MEMCEMBNA Civil Emergency Message As issued Manual Yes Yes Yes Yes
MEMCLABNA Daily Climatic Summary See 1.09.5 CRS No Yes No No
MEMFFABNA Flash Flood Watch As issued Manual Yes No Trigger Yes
MEMFFSBNA Flash Flood Statement As issued CRS No No Trigger Yes
MEMFFWBNA Flash Flood Warning As issued Manual Yes No Trigger Yes
MEMFLABNA Flood Watch As issued Manual Optional No Trigger Yes
MEMFLSBNA River Flood Statement As issued CRS No Yes Yes Yes
MEMFLWBNA Flood Warning As issued Manual Optional No Trigger Yes
MEMNPWBNA Non-Precipitation Warning As issued Manual Optional No Trigger Yes
MEMPNSBNA Public Information Statement As issued Manual No Yes No No
MEMRMTBNA Monthly Test for BNA See 1.09.4 CRS Yes Yes No No
MEMRMTBGV Monthly Test for BGV See 1.09.4 CRS Yes Yes No No
MEMRMTCOK Monthly Test for COK See 1.09.4 CRS Yes Yes No No
MEMRMTLAW Monthly Test for LAW See 1.09.4 CRS Yes Yes No No
MEMRMTWAV Monthly Test for WAV See 1.09.4 CRS Yes Yes No No
MEMRMTCLK Monthly Test for CLK See 1.09.4 CRS Yes Yes No No
MEMRWTBNA Weekly Test for BNA See 1.09.4 CRS Yes Yes No No
MEMRWTBGV Weekly Test for BGV See 1.09.4 CRS Yes Yes No No
MEMRWTCOK Weekly Test for COK See 1.09.4 CRS Yes Yes No No
MEMRWTLAW Weekly Test for LAW See 1.09.4 CRS Yes Yes No No
MEMRWTWAV Weekly Test for WAV See 1.09.4 CRS Yes Yes No No
MEMRWTCLK Weekly Test for CLK See 1.09.4 CRS Yes Yes No No
MEMSPSBNA Special Weather Statement As issued CRS No Yes Yes Yes
MEMSVABNA Severe Thunderstorm Watch As issued Manual Yes No Trigger Yes
MEMSVRBNA Severe Thunderstorm Warning As issued Manual Yes No No Trigger
MEMSVSBNA Severe Weather Statement As issued CRS No No Trigger Yes
MEMTOABNA Tornado Watch As issued Manual Yes No Trigger Yes
MEMTORBNA Tornado Warning As issued Manual Yes No No Trigger
MEMWSWBNA Winter Weather Message As issued Manual Optional No Trigger Yes
STATIONID Station ID Normal CRS No Yes Yes Yes
MEMLIDBNA Long ID for BNA Once daily CRS No Yes No No
MEMLIDBGV Long ID for BGV Once daily CRS No Yes No No
MEMLIDCOK Long ID for COK Once daily CRS No Yes No No
MEMLIDLAW Long ID for LAW Once daily CRS No Yes No No
MEMLIDWAV Long ID for WAV Once daily CRS No Yes No No
MEMLIDCLK Long ID for CLK Once daily CRS No Yes No No

Attachment 2 - CRS

CRS has automated NWR, integrating SAME into computer workstations. The "master" station, labeled "0MP," is located in the NWR room. The "shadow" station, labeled "5MP," is located in operations. Each station performs the same tasks.

There are three product suites for each transmitter: general, high, and exclusive. The general suite is employed during benign weather and allows broadcasting of all NWR products. The high suite is used during "low-grade" severe weather events when perhaps a watch of a flood warning, for example, might be in effect. Here, low priority products such as the hourly weather roundup and the travelers' forecast will be removed from the broadcast cycle. The exclusive suite is reserved for warning situations. Here, all non severe weather related products are removed from the broadcast cycle.

CRS automatically switches from one product suite to the next by employing "triggers." For instance, the severe thunderstorm watch is used as a trigger for the high suite. When one is issued, CRS will automatically switch to the high suite. Should a severe thunderstorm warning be issued, CRS would recognize this as a trigger for the exclusive suite. When such products expire, CRS will drop to the lowest applicable suite. So if the warning expired, but the watch were still in effect, CRS would employ the high suite.

To login

Login ID: admin, Password: cpe94cpe

To record a weather message with no tone alert

1. Put on headphones and adjust the microphone so it is in front of your mouth.

2. Either go to "messages," then "weather messages," or click the hotkey bearing the rainshower icon.

3. Click the downward pointing arrow beside "message type."

4. Select the product you wish to record, then double click."

5. Either go to the top of the "weather messages" window, click "search," then "find," or click the hotkey bearing the magnifying glass icon.

6. Enter a message name. Any name will do.

7. Check the expiration time. The time given is a default time and can be changed if necessary. (This is the time CRS will pull the message from the broadcast cycle, unless otherwise updated beforehand.) For products MEMHWRBNA, MEMBRTBNA, all MEMZFP's, MEMWRKEFP, and MEMCLABNA, skip steps 8-11. Area definitions for these products are pre-selected.

8. Click "area selection."

9. Under "choices," click the box "zones," and select "all areas."

10. If the product is to be placed on all transmitters, click the green arrow. If not, select a transmitter(s), then click the blue arrow to the right of the green arrow.

11. Click "ok."

12. Enter a periodicity, if required. (This is equivalent to the "timed sequence" feature used by SAME. For example, entering one hour will cause the product to play one every hour. Otherwise, the product will play once every cycle.)

13. Click "contents."

14. Click "record," and begin recording. Optimally the audio meter on the front panel of the master and shadow consoles should read between 20 and 40 on the black dial.

15. Click "stop" when done.

16. If you want to check your recording, click "play," then "stop" when you are done.

17. Click "ok" when done.

18. Either go to "file," then "save," or click the hotkey bearing the computer disk icon.

19. If you wish to record another message, either go to "file," then "new," or click the hotkey bearing the folded sheet of paper icon.

20. Please close the "weather messages" box after you have finished.

To record a watch or warning with optional alerts

The following procedures are to be used with products MEMFLABNA, MEMFLWBNA, MEMNPWBNA, and MEMWSWBNA.

1. Put on headphones and adjust the microphone so it is in front of your mouth.

2. Either go to "messages," then "weather messages," or click the hotkey bearing the rainshower icon.

3. Click the downward pointing arrow beside "message type."

4. Select the product you wish to record, then double click."

5. Either go to the top of the "weather messages" window, click "search," then "find," or click the hotkey bearing the magnifying glass icon.

6. Enter a message name. Any name will do.

7. Set the expiration time.

8. Click "area selection."

9. Under "choices," click the box labeled "zones," and select "all areas."

10. Select a county, then click the blue arrow to the right of the green arrow.

11. Click "ok."

12. Highlight all active transmitters under "SAME/Transmitters" and "Alert," if applicable.

13. Click "contents."

14. Click "record," and begin recording. Optimally the audio meter on the front panel of the master and shadow consoles should read between 20 and 40 on the black dial.

15. Click "stop" when done.

16. If you want to check your recording, click "play," then "stop" when you are done.

17. Click "ok" when done.

18. Either go to "file," then "save," or click the hotkey bearing the computer disk icon.

19. If you wish to record another message, either go to "file," then "new," or click the hotkey bearing the folded sheet of paper icon.

20. Please close the "weather messages" box after you have finished.

To transmit live and record a watch or warning to be alerted

1. Put on headphones and adjust the microphone so it is in front of your mouth.

2. Either go to "messages," then "emergency override," or click the hotkey bearing the "E" icon.

3. Select the watch or warning to be transmitted.

4. Click "area selection."

5. Under "choices," click the box labeled "zones," and select "transmitters."

6. Select a county(ies) from the "areas" section.

7. Click the blue arrow to the right of the green arrow.

8. Click "ok."

9. Set the duration time for the watch/warning.

10. Click "transmit."

11. After the SAME and 1050 Hz tones have been transmitted, a "record" prompt will appear. Begin recording (you will actually be recording while transmitting live). Optimally the audio meter on the front panel of the master and shadow consoles should read between 20 and 40 on the black dial.

12. Click "stop" when done.

13. Click "exit" when done.

14. Click "schedule."

15. Enter a message name. Any name will do.

16. Click "enter."

17. Please close the "emergency override" box after you have finished.

To edit a previously recorded weather message

1. Either go to "messages," then "weather messages," or click the hotkey bearing the rainshower icon.

2. Click the downward pointing arrow beside "message name."

3. Select the product you wish to edit, then double click.

4. Either go to the top of the "weather messages" window, click "search," then "find," or click the hotkey bearing the magnifying glass icon.

5. Now you can edit any parameter of the weather message (i.e., expiration time, area selection, contents, etc.).

6. After all changes have been made, either go to "file," then "save," or click the hotkey bearing the computer disk icon.

7. Please close the "weather messages" box after you have finished.

To remove a product from sequence

1. Either go to "transmitters," then "broadcast cycle," or click the hotkey bearing the clock icon.

2. Highlight a transmitter from the list on the left side of the "broadcast cycle" window.

3. Click the product you wish to remove from sequence. That product should be highlighted.

4. Click the "cut" button at the bottom of the "broadcast cycle" window. Then click "ok."

To check the broadcast cycle for a particular transmitter

1. Either go to "transmitters," then "broadcast cycle," or click the hotkey bearing the hotkey bearing the clock icon.

2. In order to check the broadcast cycle for a particular transmitter, simply highlight that transmitter from the list on the left side of the "broadcast cycle" window.

Live backup

These procedures will enable the operator to disable CRS and make live broadcasts via the microphone. This feature is most useful with "Quickwarn," a procedure by which the NWR operator broadcasts critical warning information before the actual warning is issued, often giving several additional minutes of "lead time" to the public.

1. Put on headphones and adjust the microphone so it is in front of your mouth.

2. On the "transmitter select" portion of the master and shadow front panels, select a transmitter (1-5) you want to go live. You may select more than one transmitter simultaneously.

3. Highlight the "enable" button. You will see the "on air" red light activated. You are now live.

4. If you wish to send a 1050 Hz tone, simply select the "1" button under "transfer/tone alerts."

5. In order to transfer broadcast control back to CRS, simply press "enable" to deselect, then deselect the transmitter(s) that had been highlighted.

Switching transmitters from primary to secondary, and vice versa

The following procuedures are valid for transmitters 2-6. There is only one transmitter at Nashville.

1. On the "transmitter select" portion of console front panel, select the transmitter (2-6) to be switched.

2. Highlight the "enable" button.

3. Select either the "pri/sec" or "sec/pri" button located on either side of the "transfer/tone alerts" label.

4. After the tones have been transmitted, press "enable" to deselect, then deselect the transmitter(s).

Monitoring the transmitters

1. Put on headphones, or turn on speaker. In order to adjust the volume for the headphones, rotate the knob labeled "oper."

2. In order to switch from one transmitter to another, rotate the knob labeled "channelselect." An orange blinking light will appear by the number of the transmitter being monitored. BNA is transmitter 1; BGV, 2; COK, 3; LAW, 4; WAV, 5; CLK, 6.

Weekly tests

The Routine Weekly Test (RWT) is to be conducted every Wednesday, except the last Wednesday of each month, when the Routine Monthly Test (RMT) is to be conducted. The test will be conducted between 1000 and 1200, and between 1800 and 2000 LCL, weather permitting. Before transmitting the RWT or RMT, load the test messages into the CRS database.

1. Locate the computer disk labeled "CRS Messages." It will be in a disk holder located beside the Parrot monitor in the NWR room. Insert it into the master console disk drive.

2. Go to "weather messages," and double click the applicable product. There is a separate RWT and RMT for each transmitter. Please note that RWT's should be done each Wednesday except the last Wednesday of each month, when RMT's are to be performed.

3. Either go to "search," then "find," or click the hotkey bearing the magnifying glass icon.

4. Above the "contents" button, highlight the "diskette" feature. Then click "contents."

5. Under the "files" section of the pop-up screen that appears, highlight the appropriate message. The messages will appear as "MEMRWTXXX," where "XXX" is the transmitter ID.

6. Click "ok."

7. A text box will appear. Click "ok."

8. Enter a message name.

9. Either go to "file," then "save," or click the hotkey bearing the computer disk icon.

10. Repeat steps 1-9 for each transmitter.