About EAS

Having first entered the cable television EAS market in 1996, VIAVI (formerly, Trilithic) has been a leading supplier of EAS equipment. The VIAVI commitment to the EAS market has allowed the company to develop the resources to become intimately familiar with the federally-mandated specifications and details for EAS messaging.

About EAS

IPAWS and CAP Protocol

Emergency Alert System Requirements

How does EAS work?


About EAS

What is EAS?

The Emergency Alert System (EAS) is a national public warning system that requires broadcasters; cable television, IPTV, satellite providers; and SDARS (satellite radio) to provide a communication method for the president to address the public during a state of emergency.  While the system has never been used for this purpose, the EAS system requirements are written around developing and maintaining the system for this purpose. The secondary use of the system is to provide state, local, weather, and Amber alerts. The system is used regularly to pass along these warnings and alerts to the general public.

Much of the development for the planned update and overhaul of the EAS system is based on the emergency warning aspects of the system. While the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has never mandated the carrying of severe weather alerts from NOAA, the president has mandated that the emergency alert system be compliant with state and local emergency alert plans.  Many of these state EAS plans require EAS participants to relay state, local, weather, andAmber alerts to cable subscribers.

After the recent wave of emergencies at national, regional, and local levels, the public has come to expect a better and more consistent method to relay messages from government entities and emergency management organizations to the general public. This has placed scrutiny on the current system and provided the basis for recent discussions and working group efforts. These efforts are leading to a major overhaul of the current system.

The role of FEMA, the VCC and the NWS

The FCC, in conjunction with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), is responsible for EAS at the federal level. The president has sole responsibility for determining when the EAS will be activated at the national level, and has delegated this authority to FEMA’s director. FEMA is responsible for implementation of the national-level activation of the EAS, tests, and exercises. The National Weather Service (NWS) develops emergency weather information to alert the public about imminent dangerous weather conditions.

The FCC's role includes implementation of rules that establish technical standards for EAS, procedures for EAS participants to follow in the event of EAS activation, and EAS testing protocols. Additionally, the FCC ensures that industry-developed state and local EAS plans conform to FCC EAS rules and regulations.

Details of the current Emergency Alert System

The primary purpose of the Emergency Alert System is to provide communications from the president in the case of a national emergency. The secondary purpose is to provide communication for local emergencies, which may be optional.

Cable television providers are required to purchase, install, maintain, and test EAS-certified equipment. The cable television solution must be capable of overriding all system-provided video programming services. The cable system may relay alerts generated by local stations, on their respective channels. The ability for EAS messaging to override regular programming is not currently required for music channels, voice, or data services.

In some cases, cable television providers may be able to opt out of local and state alerts, but due to public expectations, most systems will still display video crawl messages with the most important alerts.

Fourth Report and Order

The Fourth Report and Order an order from the FCC to integrate the Common Alerting Protocol into the Emergency Alert System. You may download and read the order which amended 47CFR11.56 to extend the CAP deadline to June 30, 2012 on the FCC website.

IPAWS and CAP Protocol

What is IPAWS?

The Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) is the nation’s next-generation infrastructure of alert and warning networks. IPAWS will expand upon the current audio-only radio and television http://www.fcc.gov/pshs/services/eas/ by providing the ability to distribute alerts over more media to more people – before, during, and after emergencies.

The scope of IPAWS includes the building and maintenance of an effective, reliable, integrated, flexible, and comprehensive system that allows the American public to receive alert and warning information through as many communication mediums as possible. IPAWS ensures that the president can alert and warn the public under all conditions. IPAWS will provide federal, state, and local authorities the capability to warn their respective communities of all hazards impacting public safety and well-being, via multiple communication pathways. IPAWS will ensure that the president is able to address the American public in situations of war, terrorist attack, natural disaster, or other hazards.

IPAWS will:

  • Diversify and modernize the emergency alert system
  • Create an interoperable framework by establishing or adopting standards such as the Common Alerting Protocol (CAP)
  • Allow individuals with disabilities and individuals without an understanding of the English language to still receive alert and warning messages
  • Allow the president and federal, state, and local emergency managers to access more communication methods to ensure alerts and warnings reach as much of the public as possible

What is CAP?

The Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) is a message format for exchanging all-hazard emergency alerts and public warnings over all kinds of networks.

CAP stands for Common Alerting Protocol, and is primarily designed to provide a standardized format for alert messages to allow interoperability, eliminating the need for custom interfaces. CAP is a non-proprietary alert format for activating various alerting and public warning systems.

The Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) profile places restrictions and requirements on the information that must be included in the alert so that it contains essential information about the alert and can be converted to EAS.  The IPAWS is the next-generation emergency alert and warning network, and expands the conventional EAS system to allow alerts to be received from various alert systems, and makes them usable over multiple transmission systems.

CAP and the future

The Common Alerting Protocol provides an open, non-proprietary digital message format for all types of EAS alerts and notifications. CAP does not address any particular application or telecommunication method. The CAP format is compatible with emerging techniques, such as Web services. CAP offers enhanced capabilities, including:

  • Multilingual and multi-audience messaging
  • Phased and delayed effective times and expirations
  • Enhanced message updating and cancellation features
  • Template support for framing complete and effective warning messages
  • Compatible with digital encryption and signature capability
  • Capacity to transmit digital images and audio

A key benefit of CAP is that alerts can be readily distributed through many different kinds of media. This will be accomplished by eliminating the need for multiple custom software interfaces to the many warning sources and dissemination systems involved in a warning. The CAP message format can be converted to and from the "native" formats of all variety of sensor and alerting technologies, forming the basis for a technology-independent national and international "warning internet."

What is the deadline for CAP compliance?

The deadline for EAS participants to be able to receive CAP messages was on June 30, 2012.

47CFR11.56 states "All EAS Participants must be able to receive CAP-formatted EAS alerts no later than 180 days after FEMA publishes the technical standards and requirements for such FEMA transmissions."

47CFR11.55(a) states "All EAS Participants within a state (excepting SDARs and DBS providers) must receive and transmit state-level and geographically targeted EAS messages, as aggregated and delivered by the state governor or his/her designee, or by FEMA on behalf of such state governor, upon approval by the Commission of an applicable state plan providing for delivery of such alerts no sooner than 180 days after adoption of CAP by FEMA."

On November 23, 2010 the FCC issued order FCC 10-191, extending the deadline for CAP compliance to September 30, 2011 after receiving multiple requests to extend the schedule.

On September 15, 2011 the FCC issued order FCC 11-136 which extended the deadline for CAP compliance to June 30, 2012.

How do I make my current VIAVI EAS platform CAP compliant?

The Encoder/Decoder must have an EASyNIC network interface card installed, have a CAP license, and have a network connection to a computer running VIAVI EASyCAP Software.

VIAVI offers two flexible, adaptable, and updatable solutions to satisfy all current requirements of EAS and CAP. For existing EASyPLUS, EASyCAST, and EASyIP Encoder/Decoders, we offer a software solution that will run as a service on Windows 7, Windows Server 2003, or Windows Server 2008. The computer must be connected via Ethernet to the encoder/decoder, which requires that a Network Interface Card (EASyNIC) be installed in the device. The software receives CAP alerts from multiple sources and forwards those alerts—including full audio and text—to an EASy-series encoder/decoder. Current sources of IPAWS-formatted CAP messages include TCP, DM-OPEN v1, and IPAWS-OPEN.  Additional sources will be added as they’re required.

A small 1U Linux server with EASyCAP Software pre-loaded is also available.  An intuitive Web Server is provided to manage and configure the system.

VIAVI is developing the new EASyCAP Encoder/Decoder.  This platform was designed specifically for next-generation EAS.  It provides an integrated solution for EAS, CAP, and all of the peripherals and protocols required to deliver audio and video alerts to subscribers in a single 2U box. EASyCAP will be available soon.

What is the new Governors Must Carry requirement included in CAP?

CAP introduces a new element that allows governors to mark an alert as mandatory to guarantee all systems transmit the message.

Despite rumors to the contrary, no new message types were created with the adoption of CAP. Governors (or governors’ designees) have always determined which alert types are mandatory within individual state EAS plans. CAP does, however, introduce a new element to alert messages that allows governors (or their designees) to indicate that an alert must be transmitted. CAP equipment must then process this information and override user-configured event and originator filters to transmit the alert as mandated. VIAVI Solutions will support this added element.

Update on FEMA committee efforts

Ongoing work is being done through FEMA regarding the next-generation EAS system, as outlined in President Bush’s June 2006 Memorandum to FEMA. OASIS’ vCAP1.1 protocol will likely be the choice of EAS messaging format for the next generation emergency alert system. The ECIG (EAS-CAP Industry Group) working group was formed to address compatibility issues between vCAP1.1 and SAME protocols. Additionally, the EAS-CAP Roadmap Coordinating Committee was formed by Suzanne Goucher, of the Maine Association of Broadcasters (MAB). On this roadmap committee are representatives of SBENABNASBANEMAIEMANCTA, various SECCs, equipment manufacturers, and last but not least, the SCTE.

Mission Statement of the Coordinating Committee:

The EAS CAP Roadmap Coordinating Committee was formed to help ensure the successful implementation of Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) technology for a revised next-generation Emergency Alert System (EAS) for the United States and its territories. The Committee seeks to identify the challenges and recommend possible solutions for an EAS CAP deployment. The results of this Committee’s research will be made available as a resource for U.S. government agencies, for the constituencies of our member organizations, and for the EAS and CAP communities at large. (As published by the EAS CAP Roadmap Coordinating Committee)

The seven working groups within the EAS CAP Roadmap Coordinating Committee are:

  • Group 1 – EAS CAP Profile WG
  • Group 2 – EAS CAP Distribution Network WG
  • Group 3 – EAS CAP Alert Presentation WG
  • Group 4 – EAS CAP Training WG
  • Group 5 – EAS CAP Equipment WG
  • Group 6 – EAS CAP FCC Rules/FEMA Directives Study WG
  • Group 7 – EAS CAP Alert Origination WG

In our efforts to keep abreast of the regulatory changes that are being discussed and planned, VIAVI attended the National EAS Summit on February 25, 2008, hosted by NASBA, the National Association of State Broadcasting Associations.

The most notable item from the National EAS Summit in Washington D.C. was that the NWSFEMA(IPAWS), and the FCC all sat on a single panel for discussions regarding the Second Report and Order, issued July 12, 2007. Discussions centered on CAP, maintaining current EAN infrastructure, and the WARNact. FEMA indicated they will increase the number of PEP stations to 64 in an attempt to gain coverage of 90% of U.S. population.

We will continue to actively pursue any and all concerns as they relate to the determination and implementation of new specifications and requirements for EAS issued by government agencies or standards bodies.

Emergency Alert System Requirements

Required Documentation

Key EAS rules for broadcasters and video providers

  • EAS participants are responsible for ensuring that EAS encoders/decoders are installed properly so that monitoring and transmitting functions are available during all hours of operation.
  • If the EAS encoder becomes inoperative, the EAS participant may operate while it is being repaired or replaced for a period of 60 days, without further FCC authority. Entries must be made in the EAS log showing the date and time the equipment was removed from, and restored to service.
  • If the repair or replacement of inoperative equipment is not completed in 60 days, an informal request shall be submitted to the District Director of the FCC field office which serves the area in which you are located. See the respective FCC Handbook for details.
  • Required monthly tests are originated from local or state primary sources. Monthly tests must be retransmitted within 60 minutes.
  • Most EAS participants must conduct a required weekly test at random days and times.
  • EAS participants must determine the cause of any failure to receive the required tests or activations, and appropriate entries indicating why any tests were not received must be made in the EAS log.

Logging details

  • All received alerts from each required monitoring source (LP-1, LP-2, or state relay)
  • All forwarded alerts
  • Required monthly test (RMT)
  • Required weekly test (RWT)

Key requirements of an EAS system

  • FCC-certified EAS encoder/decoder or decoder only (based on the number of subscribers)
  • Two to three receivers tuned to monitor specified state plan sources
  • In many cases, the ability to display text will be necessary
  • Distribution equipment to place alert on analog channels
  • IP capability to place alerts on headend devices or end-user host televisions (SCTE-18)

How does EAS work?

How does an encoder/decoder work?

  • FSK detection and decoding
  • EAS header checking
  • EAS audio storage
  • Radio logs
  • EAS re-encoding and distribution
  • The EAS dedicated radio receivers constantly monitor for EAS header information
  • When the EAS header is transmitted, the FSK decoder within the EAS encoder/decoder processes the information and records the audio
  • The encoder/decoder processes the EAS alert, including verification of the validity of the alert, the location (FIPScode), and determines whether to deliver the message
  • If the alert is to be forwarded, it is re-encoded and distributed to the proper devices; TVs, set-top boxes, edge decoders, and other headend or network devices, according to the set up in the EAS system controller

Details of an alert

An EAS message is composed of several components; one of those being the FIPS code. FIPS codes are similar to a zip code, but a single FIPS code is assigned to an entire county (in most instances). For instance, a TOR (tornado warning) may be issued for FIPS code 018097, which is Marion county, Indiana. Once decoded, the message header would appear similar to the following: ZCZC-EAS-TOR-018097+0200-1191513-WIBC/FM. Only one FIPS code, 018097, is contained within this example message header. An EAS message header can contain as many as 31 county FIPS codes.

EAS equipment

VIAVI manufactures and distributes an FCC-certified EAS encoder/decoder and a decoder only. The official (FCC-recognized) designation is P4V-EASYPLUS-1.

View the EASy Series Suppliers’ Declaration of Conformity (SDoC)


EAS requirements

State plans

State plans can be found at http://transition.fcc.gov/pshs/services/eas/chairs.html