FEMA Adopts CAP for Emergency Alerts

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Washington, DC - Sep 30, 2010 - The Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has adopted a new digital message format for the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS), the nation's next-generation emergency alert and warning network.

The new digital message format being adopted by FEMA is the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS) Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) v1.2 standard. This open standard will enable alert messages to be easily composed by emergency management officials for communication with citizens using a much broader set of devices to reach as many people as possible.

The goal of IPAWS is to expand upon the traditional Emergency Alert System by allowing emergency management officials to reach as many people as possible over as many communications devices as possible, such as radio, television, mobile phones, personal computers and other communications devices. The current Emergency Alert System relies largely on radio and television to communicate to people.

Under Executive Order, FEMA is responsible for establishing the protocols and standards for an integrated emergency alert system that can reach Americans over a variety of media in a timely manner.

To assist officials in evaluating new alert and warning systems, FEMA is conducting an assessment program to ensure products adhere to the IPAWS CAP profile. A list of pre-screened products that meet the profile will be published at the FEMA Responders Knowledge Base, to aide federal, state, territorial, tribal and local officials in purchasing emergency alert products that comply with IPAWS CAP. Vendors can apply for these assessments at www.nimssc.org/ipawsconform.

The three documents defining the FEMA IPAWS technical standards and requirements for CAP and its implementation are OASIS CAP Standard v1.2; IPAWS Specification to the CAP Standard (CAP v1.2 IPAWS USA Profile v1.0) and the CAP to EAS Implementation Guide. Additional information and documentation on CAP technical standards can be found on the OASIS website. The CAP to EAS Implementation Guide can be found on the website of the EAS-CAP Industry Group.

The main concern to broadcasters now is that the deadline for broadcasters to be able to receive CAP-enabled messages, which is set to 180 days upon FEMA's adoption, has been determined. Many broadcasters have questioned if the deadline can be extended beyond 180 days.

At the 2010 Radio Show, FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell, who spoke at a session, was asked if the 180-day clock could be extended. He replied by saying it's reasonable, but that is up to the chairman of the FCC.

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