Trends in Technology: EAS Update

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As you are aware, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) published the technical standards and requirements for CAP-formatted EAS alerts on Sept. 30, 2010, thus triggering the 180-day window for compliance among broadcast stations. Fortunately, for those of us directly involved in the implementation of the new equipment, the FCC waived part 11.56 of its own rules on Nov. 23, and moved the deadline for implementation back to Sept. 30, 2011. In paragraph 10 of its order 10-191, the FCC wrote "It is in the public interest to provide EAS participants with enough time to correctly and efficiently implement the requirements for a next-generation EAS. We are concerned that retaining the 180-day deadline would lead to an unduly rushed, expensive, and likely incomplete process." The agency goes on to say that while it does not anticipate any further waivers, it reserves the right to extend the deadline yet again.

That being said, it is important to note that progress is being made in working out the details of the implementation of CAP, and that the deadline will be here before long. CAP is coming sooner than later, and you should endeavor to learn about it. I'll discuss some of the remaining issues with the implementation of CAP and how they are being addressed.

For starters, let's decode some of the many acronyms that you'll see. CAP stands for Common Alerting Protocol, and version 1.2 of CAP was developed by OASIS (Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards). CAP is the digital messaging format to be used in the implementation of IPAWS (Integrated Public Alert Warning System), which is our nation's next-generation emergency warning and alert system. The most important aspects of IPAWS are as follows:

  • It is a comprehensive system that enables the proper authorities (such as federal, state, territorial, local and tribal associations) to alert and warn the citizenry under any emergency conditions and by way of as many means as possible.
  • It will allow the president to speak to the American people during any emergency situation.
  • By making use of standards such as CAP, it will create an interoperability framework that will allow a single warning message to be transmitted over different systems.
  • It will enable alerts and warnings to those with disabilities and those without an understanding of the English language.

    While we all know radio and TV are an important means by which much of the populace can be reached, we also know there are many new means -- such as the Internet and more specifically mobile devices -- that allow an even greater percentage of the public to be reached rapidly should that 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.

    -- continued on page 2

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