DHS, ATPS Launch Digital EAS Pilot Program

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Association of Public Television Stations (APTS) kicked off the Digital Emergency Alert System (DEAS) pilot project Oct. 21. APTS and the DHS Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) are working on the six-month project with PBS, AT&T Wireless, Cingular Wireless and T-Mo
Author:
Publish date:

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Association of Public Television Stations (APTS) kicked off the Digital Emergency Alert System (DEAS) pilot project Oct. 21.

APTS and the DHS Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) are working on the six-month project with PBS, AT&T Wireless, Cingular Wireless and T-Mobile to test the system through digital television and satellite distribution systems.

A recent homeland security bill said that DHS must report about best uses for message types, security, input devices, transmission media and standards by Jan. 31, 2005.

John Lawson, president and CEO of APTS said the digital alert system was born out of an National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) project in Lexington, Ky. that used DTV datacasting to deliver weather alerts. However, the main purpose of the DEAS pilot project is to deliver urgent messages from the president to the public.

Lawson also said that the need for DEAS grew out of the communication problems that the federal government experienced during 9/11.

"Digital TV is the solution to that problem," Lawson said. "After Sept. 11, we all became really interested in that technology."

Lawson said the pilot project was "a validation of DTV datacasting as a data delivery platform."

The design and implementation of the project is managed by Chantilly, Va.-based SpectraRep, provider of broadcast IP video technology.

During the pilot project, the DHS will send test messages via public television access points at WETA, a public TV station based in Arlington, Va. From there, the signals will be relayed to end-user devices. The DHS will also send prepackaged messages to Maryland Public TV, the New Jersey Network and WHRO over the PBS satellite system.

WETA will be making bandwidth available as needed, but the amount of bandwidth requested was not specified.

"The message is device dependent," said Eleanor Latimer of KERA--the north Texas public TV and radio provider--who demonstrated the system at the kick off event at the National Press Club. During a SARS outbreak, for example, the CDC could send information sent out to first responders via DEAS who would then disseminate the information to the appropriate channels.

People with DTV reception will be able to see video and those using text-only cell phones and PDAs will receive a text message.

The date when the test will begin on cell phones will be discussed at the DEAS participant meeting on Oct. 26.

Once the system is in place, users should be able to get the emergency messages everywhere they receive cell phone service, according to Gary Jones of T-Mobile.

"The text message will reach you all over the world," Jones said.