First National Test of Emergency Alert System

Daily News Article   —   Posted on November 4, 2011

(by Angenene Gibbs, SapulpaHeraldOnline.com) – The U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the FCC recently announced there will be a nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System at [2 p.m. Eastern Standard Time] on Wednesday, Nov. 9.  [The Emergency Alert System (EAS) is a national warning system, which replaced the Emergency Broadcast System (EBS) on January 1, 1997.]

Federal Communications Commission officials said the purpose of the test is to assess the reliability and effectiveness of the system in alerting the public. …

The three-minute test will use analog and digital signals from radio, television, cable, satellite and wireline phone providers through specialized equipment. ….. [StudentNewsDaily Editor’s Note:  The FEMA website now indicates the test will last 30 seconds.  The test will involve broadcast radio and television stations, cable television, satellite radio and television services and wireline video service providers across all states and the territories of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and American Samoa. ]

During the test, viewers and listeners will be notified, “This is a test.” Although next Wednesday’s test will resemble previous tests, the top of the screen may say, “Emergency Action Notification has been issued.” On some screens, there may or may not be an image. FEMA and the FCC reported that on some screens, the “This is a test” disclaimer might not show up.

State and local officials have used the Emergency Alert System for weather information and other emergencies, but there has never been a national activation of the system.

Federal officials are hoping to assess the readiness and effectiveness of the current system and to identify potential improvements. The current system has been in place 15 years.

National alert systems began in 1951. The Emergency Broadcast System was a 1963 upgrade. Although the system was never used for a “national emergency,” it was activated more than 20,000 times [at the state and local level] between 1976 and 1996 to alert Americans about civil emergencies and severe weather.  [The Emergency Alert System replaced the Emergency Broadcast System in 1997.]

Wednesday’s test is a joint venture with FEMA, the FCC, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, broadcasters and state and local emergency agencies.

Officials said the test can provide an accurate picture of the current state of the system and possible improvements for a more reliable, resilient system. They chose the Nov. 9 date because of the end of the hurricane season and the window before the winter storms begin.

Reprinted here for educational purposes only. May not be reproduced on other websites without permission from the Sapulpa Herald. Visit the website at sapulpaheraldonline.com.

Questions

1.  What is unique about Wednesday’s nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System?

2.  What is the purpose of Wednesday’s nationwide test?

3.  a) How long will the test last?
b)  On which systems will the test be broadcast?

4.  a) Which federal government agencies initiated the nationwide test?
b)  Which government agencies will participate in the test?

5.  a) Are you surprised that the federal government has the technology to interrupt communication systems nationwide to issue an alert in the case of an emergency? Explain your answer.
b) Do you think it is necessary to have such a system in place?  Why or why not?


Free Answers — Sign-up here to receive a daily email with answers.

Background

The Emergency Alert System (EAS):

  • In addition to alerting the public of local weather emergencies such as tornadoes and flash floods, the EAS is designed to enable the President of the United States to speak to the American people within 10 minutes, but the nationwide federal EAS has never been activated.
  • The EAS regulations and standards are governed by the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau of the FCC. Each state and several territories have their own EAS plan.
  • EAS has become part of IPAWS – the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System, a program of Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
  • EAS is jointly coordinated by FEMA, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and the National Weather Service (NOAA/NWS).
  • Digital television and cable providers, along with Sirius XM satellite radio, IBOC, DAB and digital radio broadcasters have been required to participate in the EAS since December 31, 2006.DirecTV, Dish Network and all other DBS providers have been required to participate since May 31, 2007. (from wikipedia)

Resources

Read about the EAS Test at the Federal Emergency Management Agency [FEMA] website: fema.gov/eastest/faqs.shtm.