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Aug 1, 2007 12:00 PM, Chriss Scherer
[email protected]

In mid-July, the FCC released a second report and order and a further notice of proposed rulemaking concerning the Emergency Alert System. Part of EB docket 04-296, the action sets the framework for the next generation EAS system. The order covers a wide range of topics, and this month’s FCC Update on page 22 details the ruling.

The Society of Broadcast Engineers, the now-defunct Partnership for Public Warning and other groups have worked to improve EAS, and the FCC has finally taken action. This action, however, raises many more questions that do not have simple answers. It also includes some requirements for broadcasters to make a capital equipment purchase.

One key item for broadcasters is that all EAS participants will be required to add Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) support. CAP provides a way to better encode information into the broadcast alert, but the details of interfacing CAP into the existing EAS is not completely defined. The result is that the FCC has raised more questions than it has answered. I have gathered some of these questions and compiled the best answers I am able to find at this time.

  • Stations will be required to install CAP capability once FEMA establishes a standard. Who is going to pay for all this CAP equipment?The broadcast stations, most likely. Right now, only two manufacturers offer CAP/EAS equipment. Sage has released the Endec HD, and TFT is distributing a CAP-to-EAS converter. Other manufacturers may also provide units.
  • How much will CAP equipment cost?The TFT 2008 lists for $2,195. The Sage Endec HD lists for $2,799.
  • Will this equipment be required for all stations in addition to the present EAS equipment?From what I can tell, yes.
  • When will stations have to have this installed?180 days after FEMA adopts CAP. It is unknown when that will be.
  • Can stations receive some kind of subsidy to purchase the new equipment?That’s up to each station to determine. It’s unlikely that the FCC will take this step. It’s always possible that some petition under the Homeland Security banner could cover some of the costs.
  • How will a governor’s message be tagged to indicate that it is a state-wide message?There is nothing in the EAS protocols that would react like a localized EAN; however, it appears that CAP can process a governor’s message and handle it as needed. Stations will program the CAP function as they need to for their area. State EAS plans may authorize an existing event code, such as civil emergency (CIV) for a governor’s message. It’s also possible that a new event code may be created for this purpose.
  • The FCC seeks feedback on providing multiple-language messages within EAS. How will this be accomplished?This is completely unknown at this time. The concept has good intentions, but the practical implementation may be beyond the technical capability of most EAS participants and alert-issuing agencies.

It’s encouraging that the FCC has finally taken action on improving the Emergency Alert System, but as you can see there are many more questions than answers at this time. What questions do you have relating to EAS and the new rules? Let me know and we’ll find the answers.

What’s your opinion? Send it to[email protected]