When FEMA formally adopted CAP at the end of September, there was no collective sigh of relief from broadcasters. This was not only because FCC Rules required broadcasters to be CAP compliant 180 days after FEMA made its decision, but also despite months of lead time for the FEMA decision, there are many issues that were yet to be addressed for stations to fully implement CAP-capable equipment.
Once the FEMA decision was announced, several groups, including the Society of Broadcast Engineers, the NAB, the FCC's own Communications, Security, Reliability and Interoperability Council (CSRIC) and others began investigating the details. By the basic letter of the law, a station only needs to be able to receive CAP messages and relay messages from the governor. From my conversations with the various EAS equipment manufacturers, the available or soon-to-be available equipment can do that. But broadcasters are still understandably unsure. No one wants to buy a piece of capital equipment today to learn that it's not compliant tomorrow.
A filing by the SBE, NAB, MSTV and nearly all the state broadcast associations stressed equipment compliance certification. The groups supported a 180-day extension (totaling 360 days) of the looming CAP-compliance deadline. CSRIC also endorsed the time extension.
CSRIC made several suggestions to ensure the revisions to Part 11 EAS rules and the overall CAP implementation are a success. Among other points, the CSRIC recommendations included clarification of the state governor must-carry implementation, station monitoring of multiple IP-based CAP alert sources, and ensuring state and local governments update their EAS plans to accommodate CAP (this was also part of the SBE/NAB/MSTV joint filing).
The good news for broadcasters is that the 180-day deadline has been extended to 360 days, effectively making the deadline Sept. 30, 2011. The FCC considered multiple factors cited in industry filings in approving the extension, including the need for more time for the development, testing and potential certification of the new equipment and the costs associated with purchasing the CAP-compliant equipments by EAS participants.
But just because the deadline has been extended, broadcasters should not be passive and simply wait until August 2011 to think about EAS and CAP again. Granted, one part is beyond the control of broadcasters: EAS/CAP equipment certification. I know the EAS manufacturers are working to complete this process with the FCC. But broadcasters can be involved in the efforts to update local and state EAS plans now. I hear plenty of complaints about the current EAS being broken. Here's a chance to fix it.
But while EAS operational plans are being revised, some people heavily involved in emergency alerting have a tendency to derail the process. Broadcaster involvement with emergency alerting is best left to distributing the messages. Too many broadcast engineers have the misguided view of broadcasting being the sole source of emergency alert information. It is not, nor should it be. Broadcasting is but one means of distributing emergency information to the public. Granted, in a dire emergency, many communications systems are out of action, leaving broadcast signals as the only viable method of mass communication. Even so, broadcasters are still the delivery mechanism, not the information originator.
As Sept. 30, 2011, approaches, I know you'll have more questions about EAS and CAP compliance. We have compiled an EAS/CAP FAQ at RadioMagOnline.com. This is updated constantly. We have also gathered and posted information on EAS/CAP equipment. Another resource I recommend is the SBE's EAS Exchange, which is an e-mail discussion group for everything relating to EAS.
Now that FEMA has adopted the CAP1.2 standard, broadcasters are asking questions about the deadline to install equipment and updates to the EAS rules.
Want to know what equipment is available to make your station CAP compliant? Here's a list.
An e-mail discussion group for everything relating to EAS...