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CEA Updates Standards For Public Alert Radios

Arlington, Va. — The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) plans to update the minimum feature and performance criteria that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather radio receivers must meet to carry CEA’s “Public Alert” logo.

The criteria are spelled out in the voluntary ANSI/CEA-2009-A standard, which was finalized in late 2003 by the association with the help of the National Weather Service (NWS) and the NOAA. The update is expected to be finalized by the end of this year

The current requirements include receiver sensitivity, the loudness of audible emergency-alert tones, the digital alert codes that the radios are capable of receiving, and the visual indicators used to warn of an alert, a spokesperson said. NOAA receivers can be embedded in any consumer electronics product.

The CEA standard “is the basis for all Public Alert radios, thousands of which are used in public schools and relied upon by consumers for early warning of impending hazards,” said Brian Markwalter, CEA technology and standards VP.

The 2003 standardization effort followed an expansion of NOAA’s mission to use its national network of broadcast towers not just for sever weather alerts but also for other types of emergencies, including biological, radiological and chemical hazards; civil emergencies; contagious-disease outbreaks; and even Amber alerts.

The current CEA performance standards include a minimum sensitivity requirement that enables outdoor reception up to 50 miles from a transmitter over flat terrain. The standards also require reception of up to 78 Specific Area Message Encoding (SAME) codes and automatic wake-up mode when a code is received. With SAME capability, radios can be programmed by consumers to wake up from standby mode and issue audible and visual warnings only when an alert for a user’s specific county is issued and when a national or statewide alert is issued. Consumers can also program their unit to wake up only when warnings of specific types of events are broadcast.

SAME-enabled receivers let consumers filter out warnings of events that might threaten areas as many miles away ands screen out warnings of county-level events that might not directly affect them.

The standard also allows for optional codes and a variety of alert options, including an audible alarm to wake up consumers at night when an alert is received. Lights and text alerts are also options.

The standard was updated in 2005 to include guidelines, but not requirements, on battery life for battery-power devices, a spokesperson noted.