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Mobile Emergency Alert System – Fact Sheet

Superstorm Sandy, wildfires, tornadoes, and earthquakes – these and other natural and man-made disasters reveal time and again the need for a reliable, geo-targeted, information-rich alerting system for a mobile, 21st Century America.

The Mobile Emergency Alert System (M-EAS) harnesses the power of terrestrial broadcasting and Mobile TV to provide these capabilities. When the power goes out and other networks are jammed, this next-generation system – field-tested and proven – can help meet the disaster communication needs of the public and first responders alike.

Advantages of Using Mobile TV for Alerts 

Enhancing, not replacing the legacy EAS and other emergency communications systems, M-EAS adds a powerful new tool in the emerging “network of networks” that constitutes the U.S. public alert and warning system. By utilizing MDTV broadcasting capabilities, M-EAS can:

  • Bypass bandwidth bottlenecks that overload current systems,
  • Reach millions of devices simultaneously,
  • Transmit rich-media alert messages with video, photos, graphics, maps and evacuation routes, radar images, text and audio (including text-to-speech), and
  • Geographically target alerts to devices and users who need them.

M-EAS is on its way toward becoming a backbone of the emerging “network of networks” that constitute the U.S. public warning system.    

Bottleneck-free, Non-Grid-Dependent, Targeted 

  • No bottlenecks: M-EAS utilizes terrestrial broadcasting, rather than cellular network connectivity. This means high reliability and mass, instantaneous distribution even when cellular fails.
  • Hardened: Broadcast stations, with back-up generators and fuel reserves, typically stay on the air even when electricity to whole regions is cut and people must depend upon battery-powered communications.
  • Accessible: M-EAS provides banner alerts to mobile devices, as well as video, audio, evacuation routes, images, weather radar, and other just-in-time information – it can even wake up the device. Features such as text-to-speech and vibrate-upon-alert, which, along with all of the rich media content available to users, mean that M-EAS alerts will reach many more Americans, including those with hearing or sight disabilities.
  • Geo-targeting: By utilizing geographic polygons embedded in post 9/11 alerts, combined with GPS capability in mobile devices, M-EAS alerts can be displayed on consumer devices intended to receive the alerts – and only on those devices. This geo-targeting avoids clutter on mobile devices, as well as confusion among mobile users.

Open Standards, IPAWS Interoperability

Mobile EAS is defined by an open, non-proprietary technical standard that was approved by the Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) on March 11, 2013 The M-EAS standard is based on the existing open standard for ATSC A/153 Mobile DTV broadcast standard. A/153 uses Internet Protocol (IP), allowing the M-EAS application to be flexible and extensible.

M-EAS is designed for ready adoption into the U.S. Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) and utilizes the international Common Alerting Protocol (CAP), which specifies how messages are structured. CAP also includes the polygonal coordinates that enable geo-targeting.