NVISA’s New VIDS Practice Makes Emergency Alerts Visually Easy to Grasp

NVISA’a new recommended practice for emergency alerts incorporates recognizable graphical elements, such as the avalanche danger symbol shown. (Image credit: NVISA)

RESTON, Va.—The NextGen Video Information Systems Alliance (NVISA) has released “Visually Integrated Display Symbology (VIDS),” a recommended practice document that describes a new way to display emergency alerts based on easily discernible graphical elements.

The recommended practice, the first from NVISA, is intended to enhance the impact, usability and accessibility of emergency information by incorporating graphical elements. The goal is to make emergency information more inclusive by ensuring it works for all audiences, regardless of visual media, language, ability or culture, NVISA said.

"Associating graphics with the audio and visual components of an alert is highly meaningful to audiences," said Bill Robertson, chair of the NVISA VIDS Working Group 2 and vice president of business development at Digital Alert Systems.

"The symbology communicates the context of the alert without requiring viewers to read the text or even understand the language,” he said. ”Leveraging well-known symbols and unifying them in a presentation makes it far easier for users to engage and understand the message, ultimately bringing greater impact to broadcasters' mission of public awareness and safety."

VIDS integrates universally understood graphical elements, including symbols and dynamic elements, into emergency alerting information for broadcast. Until now, visual displays of public warnings typically have been text-only and usually limited to a single language. VIDS creates a commonly defined relationship between the type of alert, the message text and any graphical elements, NVISA said.

The VIDS recommended practice lays out the new approach. It provides a standard look and feel for advanced multimedia alerts that is fully compatible with national emergency alert requirements. The VIDS recommended practice explicitly accommodates the requirements of emergency alert systems in the United States and Canada, while providing the flexibility to be applied anywhere else in the world, NVISA said.

VIDS can be adopted across all manner of display technologies, including broadcast media, cable and IPTV systems and digital signage. The VIDS visual presentation is based on a set of display directives for integrating alert information in which specific icons or symbols graphically represent an emergency event. Each symbol is presented with the alert text in a highly accessible manner, it said.

For broadcasters and cable operators, systems using the VIDS recommended practice will deliver an integrated look and feel for advanced emergency alerts, with enhanced accessibility and appeal for viewing audiences. For manufacturers and developers, the recommended practice offers a standardized method to integrate, package and display alert text and graphics.

Integrating a range of technical and regulatory requirements, the NVISA VIDS document makes recommendations for visual presentation of emergency information on display systems, including the Emergency Alert System (EAS), Advanced Emergency Information (AEA) applications in ATSC 3.0 NextGen TV, OTT applications, digital signage, mobile applications and other visual media.

The set of graphical display elements in VIDS is derived from public policy and social science research conducted by FEMA IPAWS, the DHS Geospatial Management Office, the DHS Science and Technology Directorate and the National Alliance for Public Safety GIS (NAPSG) Foundation.

The NVISA Recommended Practice for Visually Integrated Display Symbology (VIDS), NVISA-WG-1-001.01, is freely available from NVISA for download and review at www.nvisa.org/documents

More information about NVISA is available on its website.

Phil Kurz

Phil Kurz is a contributing editor to TV Tech. He has written about TV and video technology for more than 30 years and served as editor of three leading industry magazines. He earned a Bachelor of Journalism and a Master’s Degree in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism.