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emergency alert systems

I. N.E.A.R Device – Nuclear Emergency Alarm Repeater 1945

II. EBS – Emergency Broadcasting System – 1963 to 1997

III. EAS – Emergency Alert System – 1997 to present


NEAR device

I. N.E.A.R Device – 1945

N.E.A.R. Device
AIRING: Season 7, Episode 9
THE PLACE: Westminster, Colorado


History Detectives peers inside a black box that may shed light on some of the darkest days of the Cold War.  The US atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 raised the stakes of modern warfare.

Almost immediately after World War Two, America’s former ally, the U.S.S.R., became her Cold War archenemy.  the Soviet Union’s surprise testing of its own atomic bomb in 1949 helped trigger a nuclear arms race, with each side pursuing ever more costly and deadly technologies.

More than sixty years after the start of the Cold War, Wayne Gilbert, of Westminster, Colorado, has stumbled across an interesting discovery. Was this device invented to help Americans believe they could survive a soviet nuclear attack?

Read the PBS Interview

II. EBS – Emergency Broadcasting System1963 to 1997

The Emergency Broadcast System (EBS) was a national plan for dissemination of urgent messages to the public in case of a national emergency, or life-threatening local emergency, such as a tornado.  It started out as Conelrad in 1951. 

Under the Conelrad plan, all radio stations were to go off the air in the event of a national emergency, except for one designated station in each region which would transmit on either 640 or 1240 kHz.  The plan was to pile all the radio stations on these two frequencies so that an invading air force could not use the signals as navigation beacons.*

EBS replaced Conelrad in 1963.  EBS was subsequently replaced by the Emergency Alert System (EAS) in 1997. 


EAS - Emergency Alert SystemIII. EAS – Emergency Alert System – 1997 to present

The Emergency Alert System (EAS) is a national public warning system that requires broadcasters, cable television systems, wireless cable systems, satellite digital audio radio service (SDARS) providers and, direct broadcast satellite (DBS) service providers to provide the communications capability to the President to address the American public during a National emergency. The system also may be used by state and local authorities to deliver important emergency information such as AMBER alerts and weather information targeted to a specific area.

The FCC, in conjunction with Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Weather Service (NWS), implement EAS at the federal level. The President has sole responsibility for determining when the EAS will be activated at the national level, and has delegated this authority to the director of FEMA. FEMA is responsible for implementation of the national-level activation of EAS, tests, and exercises. The NWS develops emergency weather information to alert the public of imminent dangerous weather conditions.

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

The FCC continues to implement its EAS responsibilities in an on-going rulemaking proceeding. In its July 12, 2007 Second Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking issued in EB Docket 04-296, the FCC addressed various aspects of the current EAS and also explored necessary steps to advance the so-called "Next Generation EAS." The Commission stated that a reliable "wide-reaching public alert and warning system is critical to public safety" and that the EAS network should permit "officials at the national, state and local levels to reach affected citizens in the most effective and efficient manner possible." Among actions taken by the Second Report and Order, the Commission ordered that all EAS Participants must be able to receive messages formatted pursuant to the Common Alert Protocol (CAP 1.1) within 180 days of the adoption of said protocol by FEMA. The Commission also allowed mandatory use of the EAS by a state governor following introduction of CAP, providing that the delivery and transmission of such messages is described in a state EAS plan that is reviewed by the FCC.

In the Further Notice attached to the Second Report and Order, the FCC has requested comment on various issues, including enhancing the provision of EAS alerts to non-English speakers and persons with sight and hearing disabilities, whether EAS participants should be required to receive and transmit alerts initiated by government entities other than a state governor, and options for ensuring that EAS operates as designed in an emergency.