emergency alert system (eas)

In 1996, EAS replaced the Emergency Broadcast System (EBS) with the Emergency Alert System (EAS). EAS is designed to provide fast and effi cient dissemination of important emergency information and can be targeted to a specifi c area. After conducting extensive tests of competing technologies, the FCC ruled that the EAS would be a digital-based automated system using XML-based coding protocols, referred to as CAP. Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) allows EAS participants to confi gure their applications to process and respond to alerts as necessary. By normalizing alert data messages, CAP can also be used to detect trends and patterns in warning
activity. EAS also accommodates the special needs of unique populations.

EAS messages originate from agencies such as FEMA, National Weather Service (NWS) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) via radio and TV stations and other media. Through the administrative function of a State Emergency Communications Committee (SECC), state broadcasters determine monitoring assignments for broadcast entities across the state. Duties of the SECC include:

  • Presiding over training and workshop sessions
  • Acting as liaison with the National Advisory Committee and Local Emergency Communications Committees (LECCs)
  • Performing studies to improve emergency communications.
  • Developing a state EAS plan for broadcast and cable media.

The FCC, in conjunction with FEMA, NOAA and NWS, implements the EAS at the federal level. The President has sole responsibility for determining when the EAS will be activated at this level, and has delegated this authority to the director of FEMA. FEMA is responsible for implementation of the national-level activation of the EAS, tests, and exercises. The NWS develops emergency weather information to alert the public about imminent dangerous weather conditions. Any national alert MUST be carried by all broadcast stations licensed by the FCC.

Local EAS alerts are initiated by the Governor or a designated representative and are broadcast on a voluntary basis. Participants, however, must follow the procedures outlined in their state’s EAS Plan. Each state must fi le their Plan with the FCC.

The FCC’s role includes prescribing rules that establish technical standards for the EAS, procedures for EAS participants to follow in the event EAS is activated, and EAS testing protocols. Additionally, the FCC ensures that the EAS state and local plans developed by industry conform to FCC EAS rules and regulations.