The Commission has adopted new rules designed to modernize the Emergency Alert System (EAS). While the full text of the FCC’s decision has yet to be released, in a public notice (http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DOC-273458A1.pdf) the Commission makes clear that all EAS participants will be required to accept messages using the Common Alerting Protocol (CAP).
As described by the Commission back in 2004, when it first proposed upgrading the EAS, the CAP is a "standardized, non-proprietary, data interchange format that simultaneously disseminates consistent all-hazard emergency alerts or public warning messages over different kinds of communications networks and systems." The idea is to have a standardized emergency alert so that the agency or individual issuing an alert need issue only a single alert which can then be received and processed by the widest variety of media (including, but not limited to, EAS participants) for re-transmission to their respective audiences.
While the CAP requirement may entail costs for EAS participants needing to upgrade their facilities, there is not likely to be any immediate hurry on that front. The FCC’s requirement will not kick in until 180 days after FEMA announces its adoption of standards. So even if FEMA were to adopt such standards as of June 1, compliance with the FCC CAP requirement would not be necessary until late this year.
In addition to the CAP requirement the new rules require EAS participants to transmit state and locally targeted EAS alerts originated by governors or their designees. (The Commission is also considering whether that requirement should be extended to alerts issued by local, county, tribal or other state governmental entities.)
The FCC is also looking at other EAS enhancements to improve the provision of emergency notifications to the disabled and to non-English speakers. And to make sure that the whole system is working as designed, the Commission may require additional equipment testing, station certification and/or post hoc assessments of EAS effectiveness following alerts. The Commission’s decision included a second notice of proposed rule making addressing these various proposals.