Emergency Alert System
The Emergency Alert System provides quiick, actionable warnings to the general public via Radio and Television broadcast stations as well as cable companies. Federal law requires broadcasters and cable companies to have the necessary equipment installed for delivering presidential (national) alerts. Fortunately, we have never had a need for such an alert.
As a public service, however, broadcasters and cable companies routinely and voluntarily provide the public with other warnings such as Amber Alerts and NOAA Weather warnings. These warnings can save lives and property. Within a matter of minutes, emergency management personnel (state and local) as well as NOAA Weather can use EAS to notify thousands of Idaho Citizens of impending danger or abducted children.
Within Idaho, accomplishing this involves a joint partnership between a large number of people and organizations. The State Communications Center is the primary point of contact for local emergency management desiring to use the EAS. The Public Safety Communications section of the Idaho Bureau of Homeland Security provides the radio system infrastructure to deliver the EAS alert from State Communications to key broadcasters in each region of the state known as Local Primaries. They in turn relay these alerts to the other broadcasters and cable companies. They also relay NOAA weather alerts. In turn, non-weather alerts are relayed by NOAA Weather via their weather transmitters. It is a largely automated process that happens very quickly.
Other warning systems overlap with EAS. Amber alerts (about child abductions) are originated by the same process as EAS, but also simultaneously delivered to digital highway signs around the state and to displays at lottery retailers. This involves some other valuable partners… the Idaho Transportation Department, Idaho State Police, and the Idaho Lottery Commission, as well as the Amber Alert committee. And new in 2012… the same origination system delivers warnings to cell phones… which involves the voluntary assistance of cable companies.