By Kathi Bliss
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) have finalized plans for the first nationwide, simultaneous test of the Emergency Alert System (EAS), scheduled to take place at 1 p.m. Central Standard Time on Wednesday, Nov. 9.
The test, which will be similar in nature to the periodic “emergency broadcast system” tests, which have existed in some fashion since 1963, is unique in that it will be the first time in history that the entire system will be triggered. Routine tests of emergency alert equipment are generally limited to a small number of cooperative broadcasters, television or cable stations, and are Federally required to ensure that equipment is working properly.
Wednesday’s test will gauge the effectiveness of the entire system, which can be triggered at the Federal level by the President, and involves a series of “trickle-down” notifications, passed from broadcaster to broadcaster, until the entire network has been notified.
The EAS system on the national level is intended to inform the public in the case of a national emergency.
This nationwide test was timed to coincide with the end of the annual hurricane season, and before the beginning of winter, when severe weather circumstances often impact large areas of the country.
FEMA and area emergency management officials have taken great care to make sure that the public, especially in Central Texas, are well-informed about this test, because the emergency notifications will be similar to those activated during the Labor Day fire disasters, and concern among officials runs high that the test may cause unnecessary worry to an already stress-burdened population.
“We’re asking that Texans, especially wildfire survivors, share this information with their children, friends, coworkers and neighbors now,” said Kevin L. Hannes, who is coordinating FEMA’s wildfire recovery mission in Texas. “Help us spread the word about the test, so no one is alarmed when it begins.”
The test is expected to last about 30 seconds. In general, the audio portion of the message will begin with the words “this is only a test.” However, because some stations, particularly cable television stations, may have different equipment, some watchers may not see the “test” disclaimer.
The test will interrupt all regularly scheduled programming on every broadcast radio and television, cable television, satellite radio and wireline video services that participates in the EAS
For additional information on the nationwide EAS test, visit www.fcc.gov/nationwideeastest.