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Common Alerting Protocol is becoming more common among military agencies

Howard Ryan

In 2001, an international, independent group of more than 120 emergency managers began specifying and prototyping the “Common Alerting Protocol” or CAP, data structure based on the recommendations of a report issued by the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC).

Shortly thereafter, the Bush administration championed a presidential initiative related to CAP which resulted in a test that exchanged 1,400 Common Alert Protocol (CAP) messages through the Dimensional Measurement Interface Specification (DMIS) interoperability backbone. The test demonstrated the Emergency Data Exchange Language (EDXL) “Message Distribution Element” standard and submitted it to the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS) for approval. 

From those early beginnings, the gestation and eventual ratification of  CAP as a DoD standard (with oversight from DHS) has resulted in CAP becoming a mandate requirement in numerous DoD statements of work to alert notification vendors competing for government alert system contracts.

Just as the United Nations is intended to be a neutral body for communications between nations, CAP tries to eliminate information silos of the past by bridging communications between the same or disparate networks, using net-centric technologies. The emergence of CAP has significantly impacted the way information sharing is accomplished within DoD as well as numerous other government agencies.

Information silos created by proprietary vendor protocols greatly limited information sharing between these agencies, until CAP arrived. Emergency operation centers and other critical government agencies which use CAP may now share critical message information across disparate networks, disparate platforms and proprietary vendor communication protocols. The end result is a truly unified mass notification capability, without technological or competitive barriers.

Recent events at OASIS include the approval of CAP 1.2 as an OASIS standard. The new version of CAP delivers digital signature support which offers added security and authentication for next-generation alerting systems.

Currently, Desktop Alert Inc., the selected vendor for the first-ever nationwide IP-based military notification system and sponsor-level member at OASIS, is implementing CAP across 146 U.S. National Guard locations and 88 U.S. Air National Guard locations to facilitate inter-agency communication during an emergency event. The CAP implementation enables alert sharing between these military networks regardless of the alert system that generated the message. Alerts are published and consumed by thousands of devices (end-points such as workstations, landlines, cell phones, e-mail, etc.) seamlessly in minutes.

This technological advancement is a historical accomplishment for the U.S. military and a boon for mass notification platforms. By bolstering actionable intelligence nationwide, national security is enhanced with rapid notification and rapid response capabilities never before utilized in a national emergency event.

In addition, the U.S. military is capable of sharing critical information with governmental agencies worldwide as CAP is endorsed by organizations and governments around the globe. The standard has been approved as ITU-T 1303 (International Telecommunication Union). It is supported by the World Meteorological Organization as well as Environment Canada and the U.S. National Weather Service. Also, the U.S. Geological Survey uses CAP for earthquake and tsunami warnings.

Howard Ryan is CEO and Founder of Desktop Alert Inc. He can be reached at:

howard@desktopalert.net