Broadcast engineers rally around emergency alert protocol

A professional engineers group is trying to jump-start the Federal Emergency Management Agency's procedure to authorize use of the Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) for national emergency alerts.

In their capacity as overseers of the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System and the Emergency Alert System, FEMA officials said recently they would decide by August whether to mandate CAP as the official standard for alerts.

Volunteers developed the open-source, interoperable messaging standard six years ago, and many states already use it. In addition, FEMA and other federal agencies use it internally.

The Society of Broadcast Engineers is calling on multiple stakeholders to participate in a process to consider CAP technologies. Those stakeholders include makers of emergency alert and warning systems and solutions, as well as broadcasters and TV engineers.

To aid adoption of CAP technology, the engineers suggest that working groups be established to address goals by developing a mission statement, milestones, feedback, deadlines, timelines and final reports to FEMA and the Federal Communications Commission.

Other working groups would address distribution networks, on-air presentation, training and equipment.

Many government contractors are active in developing solutions for emergency alerts for state, local and federal agencies. Some of them already use CAP while others use proprietary formats.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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