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Prepare for the Nationwide Emergency Alert System Test

November 4, 2011

On November 9, at 2:00 p.m. Eastern time, televisions and radios across the nation will broadcast a series of beeps followed by the message, "This is a test." 



While local and state components of the Emergency Alert System (EAS) are tested on a weekly and monthly basis, respectively, this will mark the first time that the federal government conducts a nationwide, “top-to-bottom” test.

EAS serves as the nation’s public warning system.

The test will last for approximately 30 seconds on all over-the-air broadcasts, cable television systems, wireless cable systems, satellite digital audio radio service (SDARS) providers and direct broadcast satellite (DBS) providers.

While state and local authorities typically utilize EAS for weather-related emergencies and public notices, such as child abduction alerts, it also serves as the primary means for the President to relay critical information to citizens during an emergency.

The test will consist of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) triggering the EAS “cascade” by transmitting the EAS code used for national-level emergencies to the first level of broadcast stations in the EAS, which in turn will rebroadcast the alert to the general public, as well as to the next level of EAS participants monitoring them.

This should continue through all levels of the system until the alert has been distributed throughout the entire country.

EAS participants are required to report back on the results of this test; FEMA, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and other agencies will analyze the results, assess problems and remedy those problems they confront.

The nationwide test is the beginning of a longer process aimed at improving national emergency alert capabilities.  While the federal government understands the tests can be disruptive, it recognizes the need to ensure the system works and establish a baseline from which it can be improved.

“Early warnings save lives,” explained FCC Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau Chief James A. Barnett, Jr. in a recent release. “This was demonstrated recently and dramatically during the major earthquake and tsunami that devastated eastern Japan. Except for Japan’s early warning systems, loss of life would have been much higher. Here at the FCC, we have a series of initiatives to ensure that similarly effective alerting systems are available here in the U.S.”

Details: For more information on the test, please visit the FCC website. NLC has also posted additional resources for local governments in the box to the right of this article.

Note: This story was provided by NLC and can be found on the NLC website.

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