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History of the Emergency Alert System 
 

The Emergency Alert System (EAS) is a public alert and warning system that leverages the communications assets of terrestrial broadcasters, cable television systems, wireless cable systems, satellite digital audio radio service (SDARS) providers, direct broadcast satellite (DBS) services and wire-line video service providers to allow the President of the United States the capability to address the American public during a national emergency.

This system must be available under all conditions. The system is also used by state and local authorities to deliver important emergency information, such as AMBER alerts.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Weather Service (NWS) regularly uses the system to disseminate emergency weather alerts and advisories.

The Emergency Alert System (EAS) was created in 1994. It is the latest in a series of alert and warning systems that began with the Control of Electromagnetic Radiation (CONELRAD) program, established by President Harry Truman in 1951.

The CONELRAD was replaced in 1963 by the Emergency Broadcast System (EBS) which remained in place until 1994.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) created the EAS in 1994 and began enforcing requirements that mandated all broadcast stations to have EAS equipment installed in 1997.

By 2001, cable systems were required to have EAS equipment installed to override all program channels with a national-level EAS message, also known as an Emergency Action Notification (EAN).

Several cable systems have been granted waivers from the EAS requirements.

The Primary Entry Point (PEP) concept first surfaced in the mid-1980s. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) began funding PEP through the Broadcast Station Protection Program (BSPP).

Each PEP station transmitter site was provided with a shelter structure, an emergency power generator, fuel tank, basic programming equipment, and a dedicated Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) connection. A specially programmed EAS encoder/decoder (ENDEC) was added later for use with the national-level EAS.

The Primary Entry Point Advisory Committee (PEPAC) was incorporated in the early 1990s to support and advise the FEMA on issues concerning the PEP System, and to assist the FEMA in managing the System.

This FEMA-funded group is made up of a single representative from each PEP member station. The group later changed its name to the Primary Entry Point Administrative Council.

In addition to the PEP System’s primary role to broadcast and relay the President’s message in a dire emergency, PEP stations are designed with a much higher-level of resiliency.

These “hardened” radio stations provide the nation with last-resort mass communications capabilities under all conditions, as required by the President of the United States.

Broadcast radio receivers are ubiquitous. On average there are eight radio receiver sets for every U.S. household.

These radio receivers can receive one or more of the approximately 14,355 full power radio stations broadcasting throughout the country. Over-the-air radio broadcasts are one-way, Omni-directional transmissions.

In the aftermath of a national catastrophic event, it is reasonable that authorities will transmit crucial information to the public through as many methods as possible.

However, broadcast radio may be the most effective method since it is possible that terrestrial Internet Protocol (IP) networks and other pathways could be inoperable, especially at “last-mile” delivery to the public.

Prolonged power outages are expected in most catastrophic scenarios, negatively affecting IP networks and other communications, including cellular technologies.

The national EAS program provides the nation with an unparalleled, survivable communications network available under most dire conditions.​


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