EAS CAP: What your community radio station needs to know

Here is a summary of some basic info about CAP, the new protocol for emergency alerts. This is an active document that will be updated as we get new information, so keep checking here for news. Special thanks to Norm Stockwell of WORT for helping create this document.

Quick update: The FCC announced the new EAS/CAP rules on 1/11/2012! There is a good summary  here. Stay tuned for more info.

Update as of 01/30/2012: The new CAP compliance deadline is June 30, 2012.


Frequently Asked Questions        


What is CAP?

CAP stands for Common Alerting Protocol. CAP is a new internationally-accepted open standard for sending information about emergencies. In the US, CAP is going to be implemented as part of the IPAWS (Integrated Public Alert Warning System) program. FEMA will originate messages about emergencies and send them to a centralized "aggregator", which will then disseminate the messages over the internet.

Unlike the current EAS system, where messages only go out over TV and radio, CAP is not tailored for broadcasters. CAP messages may include text, photos, videos, or audio to supplement the basic information. The messages will be sent not only to TV and radio stations, but also to computers, smart phones, highway signs, and more.

At this point, CAP is not a replacement for the previous emergency alert system. It's more of a supplement. You can think of CAP as an extra input to your EAS. While you used to be required to monitor two radio stations with your EAS, now you'll be required to monitor CAP as a third information source as well.


What do I have to do, and when?

The FCC will require you to have equipment that can receive and decode CAP messages. You will also need to be capable of rebroadcasting CAP messages in EAS format.

The current deadline for compliance is June 30, 2012. The original deadline was March 30th, 2011, but the FCC has extended it twice at the request of Prometheus and other broadcasters' associations.

Who runs CAP?

Each state will be responsible for developing its own system for implementing CAP. You should check with your local State Emergency Management office to find out what sources to monitor and what content will be delivered via CAP.


How can I receive and decode CAP messages?

There are a few options for this. If you have a "CAP capable" (or "CAP-able", as we like to say) EAS, then all you'll need is a software update. However, many older EAS models aren't CAP capable. If you have a non-CAP capable EAS then you have two options:

1) Buy a new EAS that is CAP capable, or
2) Buy a CAP-to-EAS converter that can receive CAP messages and convert them to the standard EAS format

A new EAS will probably cost upwards of $2000, depending on what exactly you need. CAP-to-EAS converters start at $1350. If you're interested in participating in a group buy, please keep reading, below you can find more information provide by NFCB about an arrangement with BSW for all NFCB members to purchase the new
equipment required by the FCC.

In any case, you'll need an internet connection, because CAP messages are sent out over the internet. See the end of this document for more specifics on equipment.

The FCC requires CAP equipment to meet certain certification requirements.  The EAS ECIG Implementation Guide is now incorporated as part of the conformance with the existing FCC certification scheme. Any EAS device that performs the functions of converting CAP-formatted messages into a SAME-compliant message, including integrated CAP-capable EAS devices and intermediary devices, need to be certified under the ECIG I.G..

The test procedures developed and utilized in FEMA’s IPAWS CA program constitute the basis for demonstrating compliance with the CAP compliance requirement. If you want to find more detail information about this you can go directly to the FCC link: http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/FCC-12-7A1.pdf

There's no guarantee that all of the CAP EAS equipment currently on the market meet those requirements. Prometheus has recommended to the FCC that the new deadline for CAP compliance give ample time for manufacturers to obtain certification after the certification requirements are implemented and for stations to then choose a model, order it, and train staff and volunteers to use it.

Is it better to buy a new EAS or a CAP converter?

A converter will be cheaper, but not by leaps and bounds. If you can afford the extra cash, there are a few advantages to buying a new EAS. If you get a CAP capable EAS, it may be easier to access the additional content (like audio or video) in the CAP message. A CAP capable EAS will also offer better integration between traditional EAS and CAP messages.


What if my station cannot get an internet connection?

Great question! There is no blanket exemption from the basic obligations of monitoring for, receiving, and processing CAP-formatted messages. However, if your studio is located in a place where internet access is limited you are eligible to apply for a waiver. Waivers will be suited to a case-by-case analysis, and will require renewal every 6 months.


Are there exceptions to the rules for Low Power FM stations?

No, the rules apply to all radio stations. However, if your station is an LPFM, the requirements still say you only need to decode (not encode) EAS messages. Keep this in mind if you buy a new EAS, because decoder-only models are generally cheaper.


Is there funding available for CAP upgrades?

Prometheus is not aware of any major national grants to cover CAP equipment. However, some community radio stations have found local funding for emergency management. We recommend talking to your state and local emergency management associations about possible funding sources. If you learn about any grants that may be available to other stations, please let us know so we can help spread the word!


Some specific notes on EAS models and converters, grouped by manufacturer

Digital Alert Systems

Available at a list price of $2,295, the fully self-contained R198 unit comes with a
power cable, a two-year warranty, and the backing of Digital Alert Systems, a
division of Monroe Electronics.

Digital Alert Systems is developing a software package that will allow their EAS units to receive CAP messages. The package isn't on the market yet, but they say it will cost $895 for the basic version and more for a version with text-to-speech capabilities. The software will work with all EAS boxes made by DAS, including decoder-only and encoder-decoder models and newer and older generations.


Trilithic offers a network card interface for the EASyPLUS EAS at $995. They will provide a free software update in January that will allow the EAS to receive and broadcast CAP messages.



TFT does not currently make a CAP-capable EAS. They do make a CAP-to-EAS converter for $1600.

Some of TFT's EAS models only come with 2 audio inputs, which isn't enough to monitor two standard EAS sources along with CAP. For the 2-channel encoder/decoder models (911R2 and 911T2), you can purchase an audio input expander from TFT for $495 that increases the number of inputs to 4. If you have a 911D, then you'll need to have the chassis modified to accomodate the additional inputs. TFT offers a full package for the 911D (including the converter, the audio input expander, and all of the modification work) for $2195.


Group Buy for NFCB Members on the new EAS-CAP Equipment

NFCB has made an arrangement with BSW for all NFCB members to purchase the new
equipment required by the FCC. The equipment must be installed by June 30, 2012. These
prices were current as of January 26, 2012.


Here are the options:

Sage Digital Endec. This is the most popular unit. If you already have a Sage unit, this will be
very easy to install. Information on the unit:
List price is $2695.00. NFCB member price is $2098.57 plus shipping ($15-$17 per unit). Tax is
charged Washington, Nebraska, and Ohio.

DASDEC-II. There are several models each offering a few more bells and whistles.
The DASRAD lists at $2995. NFCB price is $2707.34 (plus shipping)

The DASRADR lists at $3690. NFCB price is $3226.23 (plus shipping)

The DASLPFM lists at $2695. NFCB price is $2436.16 (plus shipping)

The DASDECII-LC lists at $1995. NFCB price is $1803.39 (plus shipping).

The DASDECII-LCR lists at $2495. NFCB price is $2255.37 (plus shipping)

There are also two converter units, if you want to keep your current EAS unit and just add the converter.

Gorman Redlich CAP-DEC 1 lists at $1350. NFCB price is $1200 (plus shipping)


TFT CAP-EAS lists for $1600. NFCB price is $1417.14 (plus shipping).



Important Notice: All these prices are Net 30 or CWO. Credit cards are NOT accepted for
these prices.

To order or get more information: Contact Shannon Nichols at BSW.
1-877-564-0561. Shannonn@bswusa.com. Let Shannon know you are a member of NFCB
and you will get the discounted prices.

Where to learn more

Here are a few links to further resources on EAS CAP:

New FCC EAS CAP Rules: Yes to Converters, No to Governor Message


FAQ from the Society of Broadcast Engineers:

Free webinar from the Society of Broadcast Engineers:

FAQ from Radio Mag Online: