Update: First-ever national emergency alert test is over, whew

Nov 8, 2011

The White House is preparing the country for the first nationwide test of the country's emergency alert system on Wednesday.

The test occurred at 2 p.m. EST Wednesday. It lasted about 30 seconds. But, of course, you wouldn’t know it if you’re online at the time.

And what does it mean that the test is on 11/9?!

The alert system can be activated by the president to inform the public in times of emergency. It has already been tested and used on the local level.

Carney said everyone should remember about Wednesday's action by the administration: "It's just a test."

And, just talking about the test has already brought up several key issues

One:

If you are conspiracy minded you can go to Websites like this one to ask why is the first national test on 11/9? That’s 9/11 backwards! And, Why do it now? What’s it in preparation of?

We don’t have answers to these questions.

Two:

A year ago, Americans crossed the threshold of spending as much time using the Internet as they do watching television, and the amount of time people spend on the Internet has increased 121 percent over the last five years, according to the NY Times.

Also according to studies by The PEW Research Center:

 

So, how will all of us online know? Rumors were that FEMA et al would buzz our phones, but according to a story this afternoon on CNN, the government will not be buzzing or texting this emergency to us.

Some critics also said the test is a stark reminder that -- 10 years after the September 11 terrorist attacks -- the nation is still living with an antiquated warning system in a digital world.

The test will air on every broadcast, cable and satellite TV station in the nation, as well as every AM, FM and satellite radio station. But it will not be sent to landline or cell phones, pagers or computers, which millions of people monitor for news and information.

One person put it best in that CNN story:

"I think the bottom line is everybody prays to God that we don't have to use it, because if we do, whether it works or not will probably be the least of everybody's worries."

According to the FCC handbook on the test:

The Emergency Alert System (EAS) is a national public warning system that requires broadcasters, cable television systems, wireless cable systems, wireline video providers, satellite digital audio radio service providers and direct broadcast satellite service providers to make their communications facilities available to the President during a national emergency.

The system also may be used by state and local authorities to deliver important emergency information such as AMBER (child abduction) alerts and severe weather warnings targeted to specific geographical regions or areas.

Here’s what FEMA says:

As part of our ongoing efforts to keep our country and communities safe during emergencies, we’re working in partnership with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to conduct the first nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System (EAS). The EAS test plays a key role in ensuring the nation is prepared for any type of hazard, and that the U.S. public can receive critical and vital information should it ever be needed.

  • It will be conducted Wednesday, November 9 at 2:00 PM EST.
  • It will be transmitted via television and radio stations within the U.S., including Alaska, Hawaii, the territories of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and American Samoa.
  • Similar to local emergency alert system tests, an audio message will interrupt television and radio programming indicating: “This is a test.”
  • When the test is over, regular programming will resume.