EAS-CAP: Dawn of a New Era

On June 29, 2012, in CAP, Emergency Alert System, IPAWS, by with SRA International

Tomorrow, June 30, 2012, is the official FCC deadline when broadcasters and cable operators must have equipment installed to receive EAS alerts in the Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) format and must be monitoring for CAP alerts from FEMA’s Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS). So how are we doing?

In an informal survey taken during an EAS-CAP presentation at a state broadcasters association conference last week, over 90% of the audience raised their hand when asked if they had their EAS-CAP units installed and were logging Required Weekly Test (RWT) messages from the IPAWS CAP feed. While a few broadcasters were still working through issues with their EAS-CAP unit manufacturer, it was good news to see that the great majority of broadcasters took the EAS-CAP equipment deadline seriously and will be in compliance on June 30th.

What to do if you have ordered EAS-CAP equipment but it has not arrived by June 30? Although the FCC has not set any guidelines to demonstrate attempted compliance, it would certainly be advisable to have readily available a purchase order confirmation from an EAS-CAP equipment supplier showing the expected shipping date. There are anecdotal stories circulating of several manufacturers experiencing backlogs in filling orders. This appears mostly due to late orders, as one manufacturer has said as recently as earlier this week that it is receiving hundreds of sales calls per day – even at this late date.

Regarding IPAWS CAP monitoring, in a recent webinar FEMA recommended a connection speed of 1 Mbps and a polling rate of every 30 seconds. They cautioned that you need to tailor your polling rate dependent on your connection speed so that responses are not being stepped on by new requests. The National Weather Service is currently connected to IPAWS and sending weather alerts into the system on an experimental basis, but the output to the EAS CAP feed will not be enabled until late summer 2012. At that time, NWS alerts will be received on the IPAWS EAS CAP feed.

In addition to having EAS-CAP equipment and monitoring the IPAWS CAP feed, there are other CAP requirements. For TV stations and cable systems, when a CAP alert is received the enhanced CAP text is required to be displayed on-air; the FCC states it this way, “EAS Participants that are required to create visual displays of incoming CAP messages must use the enhanced text in the CAP message.” If the EAS Participant is using an intermediary device (CAP-to-EAS converter) not capable of extracting the CAP text for display, compliance with this rule is waived until June 30, 2015. The FCC has noted that while the use of text-to-speech (TTS) is allowed, it is not required. However, not enabling TTS on an EAS-CAP unit could result in alerts aired with no audio message. EAS Participants with “physical unavailability of broadband Internet service” may apply for an FCC waiver from needing to purchase and install EAS-CAP equipment; those waivers must be renewed every 6 months and the legacy EAS over-the-air monitoring must be maintained – which is a requirement for all EAS Participants.

Just a reminder that starting July 2nd, the Monday-Friday RWTs that FEMA has been sending on the IPAWS CAP feed will revert to just one RWT per week on Mondays at 11AM local time (DST observed). Be aware that the FCC stated in a recent webinar that these IPAWS RWTs are to be logged in the official FCC EAS Log.

Stay tuned to AWARE for more updates as “EAS-CAP, Dawn of a New Era” continues.

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