EAS/CAP FAQ


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Updated May 27, 2011

Now that FEMA has adopted the CAP1.2 standard, broadcasters are asking questions about the now 360-day deadline to install equipment and updates to the EAS rules. Those heavily involved with EAS note that it is not easy to give specific answers because so much is in flux. However, the questions still remain, and Radio magazine has assembled this FAQ to help you answer questions from station management.

This is a work in progress, and we will add to it and update it as needed. If you have a question to add, tell us (radio@RadioMagOnline.com) and we'll include it and find an answer.


In Nov. 2010, the FCC extended the deadline for broadcast stations to be able to receive CAP-enabled messages from 180 to 360 days. The new deadline is Sept. 30, 2011. The countdown clock is now rolling.

On May 26, 2011, the FCC released a Third Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FNPRM) outlining some of the changes that are likely to made to FCC Part 11 Rules (EAS) and seeking comment on other items.

What is the minimum requirement for stations to comply?
At the very minimum:
1) Stations must be able to receive messages delivered using the CAP 1.2 data protocol.
2) Messages sent by the governor or someone he/she designates received by stations in a method specified by the State EAS Plan and put on the air immediately.

What is the recommended way for stations to comply?
Stations should be prepared to incorporate emergency messages delivered by the CAP protocol into their EAS systems, logging and plans. This means a station's current EAS encoder/decoder should either be capable of receiving and reacting to CAP messages, or there should be a device that can be added to a current EAS unit to inject messages delivered using CAP into it. Either way, the station's EAS unit should react appropriately.

How can a station receive and decode CAP messages with EAS equipment?
Stations will need to have a device or system capable of receiving messages using the CAP protocol. At this time, most EAS equipment manufacturers can either provide or are in the process of developing devices to decode CAP. Some have the capability to incorporate the CAP messages into a station's EAS capabilities, although that integration is not part of this specific ruling.

For a station to receive CAP messages it may simply be a matter of having a computer that can receive and decode the message. For example, The National Weather Service is currently using CAP and its messages can be decoded using the NWS ATOM feed at www.weather.gov/alerts-beta.

Update: The May 26 FNPRM proposes:
CAP messages converted to EAS will be handled the same way as current EAS messages.
The FCC has requested comments on whether EAS participants can use a CAP-EAS converter that feeds conventional EAS equipment and the standards and certification that should apply to such converters. Comments were also requested on how CAP capability should be incorporated into the current EAS Equipment certification process.

What is CAP?
In plain English, it's simply a protocol -- a format, so to speak -- that will be used to distribute emergency messages. It's the chosen common language the emergency communications community will be using from now on.

According to a document drafted partially by former SBE EAS Committee Member Art Botterell (at www.oasis-open.org/committees/download.php/14759/emergency-CAPv1.1.pdf)

The Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) is a simple but general format for exchanging all-hazard emergency alerts and public warnings over all kinds of networks. CAP allows a consistent warning message to be disseminated simultaneously over many different warning systems, thus increasing warning effectiveness while simplifying the warning task. CAP also facilitates the detection of emerging patterns in local warnings of various kinds, such as might indicate an undetected hazard or hostile act. And CAP provides a template for effective warning messages based on best practices identified in academic research and real-world experience.

CAP messages can contain not just data, like the SAME protocol broadcasters are familiar with, but also audio, video, text and other types of information.

This is a good wiki on CAP developments: www.incident.com/cookbook/index.php/Welcome_to_the_CAP_Cookbook.

Does this mean the "duck quacks" (the EAS SAME tones stations use now) will change or go away?
Nothing changes with what stations must send. Even EAS isn't changing...yet. In fact, it is expected that the current EAS system will not be changed, but a separate, CAP-capable data distribution system will be added to EAS plans.

There will need to be an approved "translation" of messages carried using extensive CAP protocol into the EAS SAME protocol "language." This is something of a digital Rosetta Stone, if you will. This is referred to as the CAP/EAS "profile" and has not yet been officially agreed upon.

Update: The May 26 FNPRM proposes:
CAP messages will be converted EAS protocol to according to a guide developed by the EAS CAP Industry Group (ECIG) and released in May 17, 2010.

On a related issue the FCC asks for comment on the rules that apply, however, to the "Attention Signal," the holdover from the old EBS days, the FCC has asked if the technical requirements that apply to the use of this signal, particularly as a means to trigger equipment can be deleted from the rules, leaving the old EBS tones as just a means to alert listeners, if used at all. The FCC asks if the requirement that the EAS Encoder even have a Tone generator for the old attention signal are necessary.

Where will stations get CAP messages?
The May 26 FNPRM proposes: CAP messages will be delivered via a TCP/IP path, which may be the public Internet or a dedicated IP data path. CAP equipment will be required to monitor RSS feeds from IPAWS (Integrated Public Alert and Warning System, www.fema.gov/emergency/ipaws) and appropriate and compliant state sources that are part of an FCC approved state EAS plan.

What's this I heard about messages from the Governor?
FCC Rule 11.55 requires state governors or his/her designee to be able to have his/her message aired on all participating stations. Most broadcasters understand that the purpose of EAS is, ultimately, to provide a means for the President to speak to the entire United States at once using the EAS system as the means. Although this has never been used, that same capability is being conferred to allow governors to speak to their states.

Where this relates to the current change is that CAP provides the means where such a message can be sent. Remember CAP can carry audio and video messages as well as the text of a message.

Update: In the May 26, 2011, FNPRM the FCC proposes that the obligation to receive and rebroadcast messages from state governors applies only to messages that have formatted them in the FEMA-designated way. EAS participants will be required to monitor a state CAP feed (via RSS) only if the feed is part of an FCC-Approved state plan.

The FCC has asked for comment regarding which other rules will need changing to make this work. Specifically the FCC asks if a new EAS Originator code for the state Governor and/or if anew EAS Event code, designating a "governor's must carry message" needs to be assigned. The FCC also asks for comment if EAS participants that serve multiple states should be required to carry the governor's message from the adjacent states as well as their city-of-license state.

What's the problem with keeping to the 180-day timetable?
In the May 26, 2011, FNPRM, the FCC has asked if the current deadline of Sept. 30, 2011, should be extended or if the deadline should be tied to some other event or trigger? In comments preceding the May 26, 2011, FNPRM, respondents expressed concern that requiring CAP compliance without rules and systems in place for states and others to distribute the messages is premature.

How will CAP messages be logged?
In the May 26 FNPRM The FCC proposes CAP messages converted to EAS will be treated like current EAS messages.

What will be the approved mapping of codes from a CAP delivered emergency message to an EAS message (will the EAN code mean the same thing in CAP as EAS?)
In the May 26, 2011, FNPRM, the FCC Proposes that CAP messages will be converted EAS protocol to according to a guide developed by the EAS CAP Industry Group (ECIG) and released in May 17, 2010.

How will stations actually receive their CAP messages?
The May 26, 2011, FNPRM proposes that CAP messages will be delivered via a TCP/IP path, which may be the public Internet or a dedicated IP data path. CAP equipment will be required to monitor RSS feeds from IPAWS (Integrated Public Alert and Warning System, www.fema.gov/emergency/ipaws) and appropriate and compliant state sources that are part of an FCC approved state EAS plan.

If the CAP messages will be sent using the public Internet, what about stations that cannot get an Internet connection?
This has not been specifically answered. It is recommended that stations research IP connectivity to their CAP/EAS encoder/decoders.

What security measures will be used so that hackers won't be able to take control of broadcast stations and emergency networks?
This has not been specifically answered but the FCC has requested comment on what security systems may be needed. It is recommended that stations research IP connectivity to their CAP/EAS encoder/decoders.

How can governors send their messages to stations?
This will depend on the state plan. The May 26 FNPRM proposes that CAP equipment will be required to monitor RSS feeds compliant state sources that are part of an FCC approved state EAS plan.

How will state plans be changed?
Your state officials will determine that. The FCC only requires that, in order for them to be included in EAS, that the CAP messages comply with FEMA CAP Message standards and the USA IPAWS profile 1.0.

What data codes will be used so that EAS boxes know that a message is coming from a governor AND that it is a "must air" message like an EAN?
In the May 26, 2011, FNPRM he FCC asks if a new EAS Originator code for the state governor and/or if a new EAS Event code, designating a "governor's must carry message" needs to be assigned.

What else did the FCC say in the May 26, 2011, FNPRM?
The FCC proposes that Geo-targeting of messages from state governors is to be done the same way as in EAS.

Also, the FCC wants to receive comments on:

  • Should procedures for EAN's be simplified so that EAN messages are processed like EAS messages, except that they are mandatory and have priority?
  • The EAT code be eliminated and replaced, when needed by the standard EOM.
  • Should the requirement that the EAS Operating handbook be posted be abolished but to, instead require that EAS participants maintain a copy of the current FCC-Filed and approved State and Local EAS plan.
  • Should the technical requirements related to the attention signal be abolished, so that the former EBS tones are used for nothing more than to alert the public and not be designed trigger equipment. The FCC actually proposes to completely remove the requirement that EAS equipment be able to generate the attention signal.
  • Does the introduction of CAP into the existing EAS framework improve access to emergency information by persons with disabilites?

    So what am I supposed to do now?
    The best advice is to contact EAS/CAP equipment suppliers and become familiar with the options available. Assuming your stations are in compliance with your EAS Plan, you should be planning to essentially add a new monitoring source to include CAP emergency messages to your current assignments. It is expected that the current EAS system (including the daisy chain included in many operational plans) will not change, but a separate, CAP-capable data distribution system will be added to EAS plans.

    If you decide to purchase equipment now, ensure that the equipment is field-upgradable by software, flash or other means to comply with the many upcoming rule changes.

    While it's important to be informed and cautious, the decision and action to purchase and install CAP-capable equipment should not be put off until the very end of the FCC's specified installation clock. Doing so will result in dealing with the logistical problems of manufacturers that will be supplying new equipment to every radio and television station and cable and satellite head-end all at once. DO NOT ASSUME THE DEADLINE WILL BE EXTENDED AGAIN! Although there are many groups seeking to extend the deadline until FCC Part 11 rules are changed and equipment can be certified as in compliance, it would be unwise to rely on an unknown without fully understanding the circumstance and preparing an alternate, if temporary method of complying with the current law.


    PDF: NAB/SBE EAS CAP Petition to extend Deadline

    The NAB/SBE EAS CAP petition filed this petition in October 2010....

    Additional Resources and Links

    FCC Extends EAS Compliance Deadline to Sept. 30, 2011

    The FCC extended the deadline from 180 days to 360 days, making the new deadline Sept. 30, 2011.

    CSRIC Approves Part 11 CAP Changes

    CSRIC Working Group 5A has submitted specific recommendations on rule changes, provided general comment and analysis regarding the Part 11 regulatory structure with CAP in mind.

    TFT, Alerting Solutions Prepared for CAP

    The two companies reiterate their products' capability to be ready for use with the new CAP requirements.

    What Happens when FEMA Approves CAP?

    Once the decision is made, many broadcasters are concerned with the now legendary 180-day clock that will begin counting down.

    FEMA Adopts CAP for Emergency Alerts

    Now that FEMA has adopted CAP, the 180-day clock for broadcasters to receive CAP messages has begun.

    EAS, CAP and the 180-day Clock

    As radio waits for the trigger to be pulled, rumors and misconceptions abound about how CAP implementation will work.



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