Common Look and Feel Guidance Version 1.2 - National Public Alerting System

Federal / Provincial / Territorial Public Alerting Working Group of Senior Officials Responsible for Emergency Management

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Table of contents

2. Introduction

This document presents the current collection of specifications, policy decisions and recommended practices related to the Common Look and Feel (CLF) of public alerts associated with the National Public Alerting System (NPAS) initiative; for Alerting Authorities, Last Mile Distributors (LMD), and developers of applications that support the distribution of Canadian public alerts to the CLF objectives.

This document is versioned and will be updated as lessons are learned and advancements are made. Readers are encouraged to ensure they are working with the most current version of NPAS CLF Guidance available at http://www.npas.ca.

This document was initially produced with the support of the Centre for Security Science (CSS) Canadian Safety and Security Program (CSSP) at the request of the Federal/Provincial/Territorial (FPT) Senior Officials Responsible for Emergency Management (SOREM) Public Alerting Working Group (PAWG), and in consultation with the public-private CLF Working Group.

Responsibility for this document now resides with SOREM and the document is maintained by the CLF Working Group.

3. Purpose

The purpose of this document is to provide Last Mile Distributors (LMDs) and alerting authorities with the guidance they require to support the CLF of public alerts associated with the NPAS initiative.

4. Scope

The CLF guidance provided applies to all media unless specifically noted. Guidance for media not yet supported, such as a wireless public alerting system envisioned for Canada, is not included in this version, but can be expected to be included in future versions. 

5. Common Look and Feel

Common Look and Feel is an objective that aims to make public alerts more readily recognized by the Canadian public.

Ideally, every member of the public would receive the same alert content, the same alert signal, the same presentation format, etc., and while that may not be achievable due to the variety of distribution mediums, there are practices the NPAS community can follow to reduce the differences between broadcasters and distribution mediums.

CLF is not limited to visual and audible presentation. It also relates to alert repetition, expiry practices, the sequence of audience alert messages presented and other factors.

6. Terminology

Active Alert or Active Alert Message: An alert message which has not expired or been updated or cancelled.

Alberta Emergency Alert (AEA): The province of Alberta's alerting system.

Alerting Authority: An authority, recognized by a government authority, having a responsibility for issuing public alerts.

Alerting Attention Signal: An audible signal used to capture attention in advance of the presentation of an audience alert message.

Alert Message: The complete CAP message, which may include multiple audience alert messages. See CAP documentation for further clarification. http://docs.oasis-open.org/emergency/cap/.

Audience Alert Message: A complete message within a CAP alert message, that may be distinct from another audience alert message because of the language, alert area, severity, etc., and which is identifiable within the CAP message as a separate <info> element. It may or may not include audio and/or other resources.

Broadcasting Distribution Undertaking (BDU): An undertaking that distributes the signals of broadcasters.

Broadcast Delay: The time between the CAP alert message being available to a last mile distributor and the audience alert message(s) being presented to the public.

Broadcast Immediate Events List: A collection of event types and associated CAP urgency, severity and certainty conditions, that have been identified by the Senior Officials Responsible for Emergency Management as having an imminent or unexpected threat to life, that alerting officials wish to be distributed and presented to the public as soon as possible, even if it means disrupting the programming of last mile distributors.
The current version of this list is available at http://www.npas.ca

Broadcast Immediate Alert (BI): An audience alert message that aligns with the Broadcast Immediate Events List. BI should not be confused with Broadcast Intrusive - a similar term used by Environment and Climate Change Canada, who should be consulted on its current definition.

Broadcast Immediate Parameter (BIP): The parameter which indicates whether an alert meets the BI criteria.

Broadcast Text Parameter (BTP): The alert message text intended for use by LMDs for visual display and generating Text To Speech audio when an audio file is not available.

Canadian Profile of the Common Alerting Protocol (CAP-CP): A set of rules and references specific to the use of CAP in Canada. See http://www.cap-cp.ca

Common Alerting Protocol (CAP): The international message protocol adopted for use in NPAS. It is an international standard managed by OASIS, the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards. See http://docs.oasis-open.org/emergency/cap/

CAP Layer: A specification developed by one or more members of the alerting community that relates to the extension of CAP, in accordance with CAP, for including additional content within a CAP alert message. e.g. the parameters defined in the SOREM Public Alerting Layer.

CAP Profile: A specification developed by one or more members of the alerting community that includes additional constraints and rules for CAP users, all of which must be within the bounds of the CAP standard. e.g. Canadian Profile of the Common Alerting Protocol (CAP-CP).

Common Look and Feel (CLF): The objective of presenting clearly recognizable authoritative audience alert messages to the Canadian public through the diversity of communications media and distributors supporting the NPAS initiative.

CLF Working Group: Coalition of last mile distributors, vendors, equipment manufacturers and government representatives. The CLF Working Group reports to the PAWG.

Last Mile Distributor (LMD): A party that presents audience alert messages to the public through one or more media. E.g. Radio, television, search engine provider, SMS text message service, etc.

Layer: See CAP Layer.

National Alert Aggregation & Dissemination (NAAD) System: The CAP alert message aggregation system recognized as the national aggregator for NPAS. Owned and operated by Pelmorex Communications Inc. See https://alerts.pelmorex.com 

National Public Alerting System (NPAS): The Canadian Federal/Provincial/Territorial government led public alerting initiative. See http://www.npas.ca

Over-the-Air (OTA): Refers to radio and television broadcast directly to the end user, and not through a BDU.

PAWG: Public Alerting Working Group reporting to SOREM. PAWG members include Federal/Provincial and Territorial representatives.

Present: To format and display text, video, and/or audio, interrupting or mixing with the program feed as required.

Profile: See CAP Profile.

Senior Officials Responsible for Emergency Management (SOREM): A forum of Federal/Provincial/Territorial (F/P/T) officials responsible for coordinating a strategy for emergency management in Canada, and for providing guidance and advice on how to enhance emergency management in Canada. SOREM includes representatives from provincial and territorial emergency management organizations and Public Safety Canada.

SOREM Public Alerting Layer: A CAP layer developed by SOREM for the Canadian public alerting community.

7. Specifications

NPAS participants should work within the requirements of the following specifications. LMDs are not expected to accept or present alert messages which are not in compliance with these specifications.

7.1. Common Alerting Protocol (CAP)

The Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) is the message protocol adopted for use in NPAS. It is an international standard managed by OASIS, the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards. CAP is an international standard that can be found in use in many countries of the world.

Current and past versions of CAP can be found at http://docs.oasis-open.org/emergency/cap/

7.2. Canadian Profile of the Common Alerting Protocol (CAP-CP)

The Canadian Profile of the Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) was developed to address alerting issues specific to Canada. As an example, CAP-CP requires the inclusion of a Canadian <eventCode>, whereas CAP does not.

Current and past versions of CAP-CP can be found at http://www.cap-cp.ca

7.3. SOREM Public Alerting Layer

The SOREM Public Alerting Layer establishes parameters that are referred to by the CLF. The current version of the specification can be found in Appendix B.

7.4. Other Documents

NPAS participants that connect with the NAAD System should refer to the NAAD System resources available at https://alerts.pelmorex.com.  Participants may also subscribe to receive email notifications of technical updates and bulletins. For example, the Test Message Policy is available at this location.

If the alerting authority includes the actual location of the subject event in the CAP alert message, they should do so to the specifications defined by the CAPAN CAP Event Location Layer. http://www.canops.org/?page=CAPAN

8. Guidance

The guidance below applies to all alert messages distributed within the NPAS initiative, and not just those that are BI. Where guidance is specific to BI or a medium, it is noted. To the extent possible, guidance is not repeated. e.g. Official language considerations are not repeated for television and radio; only exceptions are noted.

8.1. CAP Message Elements

8.2. Official Language Considerations

8.3. Alert Text, Audio, and Video

8.4. Alerting Attention Signal

8.5. Repeat Distribution of Audience Alert Messages

8.6. Alert Message Expires and Cancellation

8.7. Multiple BI Alert Audience Messages for the same Distribution Channel

8.8. Broadcast Immediately and Effective Time

8.9. Multiple <info> Elements

8.10. Updates

8.11. Broadcast Immediate and Minor Updates

8.12. Polygons

8.13. Speed of Delivery

8.14. Audio Content Considerations

8.15. Medium Specific Considerations

9. Future Considerations

Stakeholders are encouraged to review the material produced by the Centre for Security Science (CSS) Public Safety and Security Program (CSSP) at the request of the Federal Provincial Territorial (FPT) Senior Officials Responsible for Emergency Management (SOREM) Public Alerting Working Group, and in consultation with the public-private Common Look and Feel Working Group. Doing so may support a more comprehensive understanding of current constraints and opportunities. Please note this technical document contains technical recommendations only, whereas the CLF document is the official guidance document. This material is available at http://www.npas.ca

10. Credits and Recognition

APPENDIX A – CLF Defined Constraints

1. Medium Constraints

2. Industry Constraints

3. Audience Alert Messages That Exceed Limits

APPENDIX B – SOREM Public Alerting Layer

The SOREM Public Alerting Layer establishes a number of CAP <parameter>s which are used to support the public alerting community in Canada. In a separate document, SOREM maintains the “Broadcast Immediate Events List”, which works in conjunction with this layer. The current version of this list is available at http://www.npas.ca

1. Broadcast Immediate Parameter

The Broadcast Immediate Parameter (BIP) provides an indicator that the content of an alert message is intended for immediate broadcast by LMDs.

2. Broadcast Text Parameter

If the Broadcast Text Parameter (BTP) is available it can be used as the sole source of the audience alert message text for on-screen display and for audible presentation on television or radio, as described in Appendix C.

APPENDIX C – LMD Presentation Content

In presenting the content of an alert to the public, the LMD should use the preferred methods of Audio Content and Text Content as described below. In the event that such content is not available or the LMD does not support this content, the Assembled Content method should be used.

1. Audio Content

Element

Suitable Use

Medium

Notes

<resource>

Audible presentation

Television and Radio

See Appendix D – Audience Alert Audio

2. Text Content

Parameter

SOREM Broadcast Text Parameter

Visual presentation

Television

See Appendix D – Audience Alert Message

Read the text or generate Text To Speech audible presentation

Television and Radio

AEA Broadcast Text Parameter

Visual presentation

Television in Alberta only

See Appendix D – Audience Alert Message

Contains audience alert messages for Alberta only

Takes precedence over SOREM Broadcast Text Parameter

Read the text or generate Text To Speech audible presentation

Television and Radio in Alberta only

3. Assembled Content

The following algorithms can be used to assemble content suitable for presentation of the alert to the public.

Algorithm

Suitable Use

Notes

Appendix D – Composition Steps for LMDs

Audible and visual presentation for television and radio

Includes the minimum required elements. Other elements may be added at the discretion of LMDs.

APPENDIX D – Alert Processing Guidance for Last Mile Distributors

1. Broadcast Immediate Alerts

2. Audience Alert Message

3. Audience Alert Audio

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