FCC adopts EAS rules

The Federal Communications Commission adopted Emergency Alert System rules on Jan. 9, modernizing the system to make it capable of processing CAP-formatted alert messages.

According to the commission, Common Alert Protocol (CAP)-based EAS offers greater flexibility and is more robust than the current system. The new rules integrate EAS with the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS), the commission said in its Fifth Report and Order. Doing so allows those authorized to initiate an alert to issue one simultaneously via EAS and the Personal Localized Alerting Network, also known as the Commercial Mobile Alert System (CMAS). It also makes EAS compatible with state systems that have switched to CAP.

The new rules will give those who are permitted to issue alerts to tap into CAP’s ability to send text-based information that track the audio portion of an alert message.

The Fifth Report and Order codifies in detail the general obligation laid out in the commission’s Second Report and Order requiring EAS participants to have the ability to receive CAP-formatted messages. Under the new rules, CAP-formatted EAS alerts must be converted into and processed in the same way as messages formatted in the EAS Protocol, and must be used to generate enhanced visual displays for viewers of stations processing the CAP message.

The order takes several actions, including:

  • Limiting the CAP-related obligations in the order to these necessary to ensure that CAP-formatted alert messages distributed to EAS participants will be converted into and processed in the same way as messages formatted in the current EAS protocol.
  • Requiring EAS participants to be able to convert CAP-formatted EAS messages into messages that comply with the EAS protocol requirements, following the procedures set forth in the EAS-CAP Industry Group’s (ECIG’s) ECIG Implementation Guide.
  • Requiring EAS participants to monitor FEMA’s IPAWS system for federal CAP-formatted alert messages using whatever interface technology is appropriate.
  • Permitting, with certain limitations, EAS participants to use intermediary devices to meet their CAP-related obligations.
    Requiring EAS participants to use the enhanced text in CAP messages to meet the video display requirements.
  • Adopting streamlined procedures for equipment certification that take into account standards and testing procedures adopted by FEMA.
    Eliminating the requirement that EAS participants receive and transmit CAP-formatted messages initiated by state governors.
  • Streamlining the rules governing the processing of Emergency Action Notifications (EAN) and eliminating as unnecessary several provisions in Part 11.