We had an opportunity last week to attend a meeting between a county emergency management agency and local broadcasters in a mid-sized community in the mid-west. Over twenty members of the local Society of Broadcast Engineers (SBE) were there to talk about how they could work better with local emergency management. OK, let's face it. Broadcast engineers are not necessarily an exciting lot. But, in this meeting, they were getting excited.
There were a couple of things getting them excited. First, they were trying to understand new requirements surrounding the Emergency Alert System (EAS). EAS is being digitized, so the broadcasters must buy new equipment that will receive messages based on the Common Alerting Protocol (CAP). Before too long, FEMA will announce that it has approved the CAP 1.2 standard. Broadcasters will then have 180 days to put new equipment in place. When asked how they feel about the requirement, they slapped me around a bit and said, in effect, "it doesn't matter how we feel, we're going to do it because it's a requirement".
The second thing getting them excited, and this is really the point of the post, was the fact that the county had taken the initiative to get their opinion about the county's plans to enhance its notification program - sirens, telephone notification, etc included. This excitement was positive. They clearly appreciated the county asking for input. And, the main theme of their input was, make sure other notification technologies used by the county also follow CAP standards. They liked the idea of the same message, in the same format, being used to activate EAS and other notification tools. (Now, this is not to suggest that EAS is activated everytime the county uses their other notification tools.)
Certainly, it's not uncommon for local public safety and broadcasters to work together. But, this would be a good opportunity for emergency management and other public safety to step up engagement with broadcasters and local cable companies. The CAP requirements have them talking. So, why not seize the opportunity to sit down with them, hear their concerns, and talk about ways to better work together? Local SBE chapters are a good place to start.
All the best,