Radio Broadcast Data System (RBDS) Study Synopsis
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Integrated Public Alert and Warning system (IPAWS) Program Management Office (PMO) has contracted with Northrop Grumman Corporation (NGC) to evaluate radio broadcast data system (RBDS) technology for use in the IPAWS architecture. This one year study is scheduled to conclude in September 2010.
The IPAWS vision is to provide the American public with critical and timely hazard alerts and warning information that saves lives and property during emergencies and natural disasters. This is accomplished by an architecture which provides integrated services and capabilities to Federal, State, territorial, tribal, and local authorities that enable them to alert and warn their respective communities via multiple communications methods.
RBDS technologies are currently in use by many FM broadcast stations, providing services in addition to their main broadcast content. These services utilize subsidiary carriers, frequencies which are combined with and broadcast with their normal audio programming. The most commonly encountered subcarrier is the 57 kHz RBDS signal, which often conveys the station call letters, slogan, and/or artist and title information displayed by many FM receivers. The North American RBDS standard was introduced in 1993 and was based in part upon the pre-existing European Radio Data Standard (RDS).
RBDS technologies have already been employed to distribute digital emergency alert messages through FM radio stations. To improve the speed and penetration of Federal, State, and Local emergency alerts and warnings, FEMA is evaluating this technology to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the alerts and warnings distribution infrastructure.
To support the evaluation, NGC conducted a three month operational demonstration of RBDS technology implemented by three vendor partners: Global Security Systems’ (GSS) AlertFM system, Alertus Technologies (Alertus), and Metis Secure Solutions (Metis). During the operational period, which extended from March 8-June 7 2010, the systems were used by emergency managers for real-world notifications as well as specific witnessed scenario demonstrations. The demonstrated scenarios comprised a campus security incident scenario, a regional pandemic scenario, and a localized natural disaster scenario. The witnessed demonstrations were conducted on individual dates at specific campuses and at specific counties. The specific dates and locations for the witnessed scenarios were the following:
1. Campus Security Incident
- 25 March 2010 – County of Oktibbeha, MS, Mississippi State University (MSU), Starkville MS
- 13 April 2010 – Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), Pittsburgh PA
- 4 May 2010 – Gallaudet University (GAL), Washington DC
2. Regional Pandemic
- 12 May 2010 – Mississippi Counties of Hancock, Harrison, Jackson, County of Mobile Alabama, Pearl MS, NGC Ingalls Shipyard.
3. Localized Natural Disaster
- 16 March 2010 – Missouri Western State University, St. Joseph MO
- 6 May 2010 – Shelby County, TN
- 19 May 2010 – American University (AU), Howard University (HU), Georgetown
University (GU), and George Washington University (GW), Washington DC
Data was collected from users of the vendor partner systems who received messages during the witnessed demonstrations. This data was collected in the form of survey responses; the survey responses were collected and analyzed by the Mississippi State University (MSU) Social Science Research Center (SSRC). Additional tailored survey response data was collected from alert originators, broadcasters using RBDS technology, and consumer electronics manufacturers who may incorporate RBDS technology into their products. In addition to survey data, data related to real-world events during the operational period and technical data related to system performance was also collected.
All data is being analyzed to evaluate RBDS technology against the FEMA-specified IPAWS Key Performance Parameters (KPPs) and Additional Performance Factors (APFs). The study results will be documented in a report to the IPAWS PMO that will be completed at the end of September.