SBE Organizes Next-generation EAS Meeting

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Washington - Oct 18, 2007 - On Oct. 17, the Society of Broadcast Engineers chaired a meeting in Washington, DC, to discuss the next generation of public alerting. Attending the meeting with the SBE were representatives of the Federal Communications Commission, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) and the National Alliance of State Broadcast Associations (NASBA).

The purpose of the meeting was to bring together federal agencies responsible for developing and implementing an improved emergency notification system with representatives of the broadcast industry. Representing the SBE at the meeting were Clay Freinwald, national SBE Emergency Alert System (EAS) Committee chairman, who led the meeting; Richard Rudman, a member of the SBE's EAS Committee and John Poray, executive director. Based on comments from the representatives of the federal agencies in attendance, there is much work to be done before any firm strategy for the next generation alerting plan will be known. The agencies all said that input from the broadcast industry is needed and will be solicited to help design the system. FEMA, which has primary responsibility for system architecture, anticipates a system that will provide redundancy and resiliency. FEMA said its IPAWS plan will essentially be a "system of systems" and that a next-generation EAS would constitute one of those systems. NASBA representatives made it clear that funding for any required equipment should come from the federal government.

FEMA is preparing a first assessment of architecture for the White House, due by Dec. 31 of this year. SBE representatives came away from the meeting feeling that there will likely be no action required of local broadcasters for at least a year and possibly longer. The group anticipates another meeting in January 2008 to hear updates from the federal agencies and continue the dialog.

Radio magazine observation: While the Common Alerting Protocol is to be included in the next version of EAS, the details of how it will be used are not yet decided. This function is currently assigned to FEMA. While EAS products with CAP capability are being manufactured, there is no reason for stations to install this equipment yet if the station already has a working EAS system. If a station needs new EAS equipment to stay in compliance with current EAS rules, these new units have a natural upgrade path already in place.

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