EAS/CAP Equipment Rundown

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As you know, FEMA has adopted CAP as the protocol to be used to disseminate emergency information as an enhancement to the current EAS system. Get ready to learn some new acronyms: not only CAP, but IPAWS and OASIS.

In a nutshell, the new requirements are simply that stations must be able to receive and decode CAP v1.2 messages, and that messages received from your state's governor (or his/her designate) must be able to be put on the air immediately. The exact details of the second part are certainly in flux and may vary from state to state. In fact, it's important to note before we move ahead that there are many questions remaining to be resolved with respect to the implementation of CAP. Following an FCC decision in November 2010, all stations must be compliant with this new requirement by Sept. 30, 2011; As a broadcaster it is important for you to stay on top of the latest developments with respect to CAP, such as the details in its implementation and the actual deadline of such.

That being said, let's take a quick look at the details, and then follow that up with CAP-specific features on new EAS equipment.

The Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS) developed the Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) version 1.2 standard that has been adopted by FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) as the digital messaging format to be used in the implementation of the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS). This is our nation's next generation emergency alert and warning system. According to FEMA, IPAWS will accomplish the following, among other things:

  • It will allow the president to speak to all the American people during any emergency situation;
  • It will allow federal, state, territorial, local and tribal authorities access to broadcast and other communications pathways for the purpose of creating and activating alert and warning messages related to any hazard impacting public safety and well-being;
  • It will diversify and modernize the Emergency Alert System;
  • It will create an interoperability framework by adopting standards such as CAP;
  • It will partner with NOAA to enable seemless integration of message transmission throughout national networks

    This information comes from FEMA directly.

    While we know that radio and TV are still important ways by which much of the populace can be reached, we also know that there are many new means -- such as the Internet and more specifically mobile devices -- that will allow an even greater percentage of the public to be reached rapidly should the need arise. IPAWS is the result of an initiative taken by FEMA for just that purpose -- the integration of multiple methods of reaching the public by disparate means. CAP is (or will become) a standard that will facilitate the generation of the warning messages and their dissemination over those multiple means.

    -- continued on page 2

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