By FRANK LEWIS
PDT Staff Writer
As part of a larger effort to strengthen the nation’s preparedness and resiliency, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will conduct the first nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System at 2 p.m. Wednesday. The national Emergency Alert System can be activated by President Barack Obama, if needed, to provide information to the American public during emergencies.
NOAA’s National Weather Service, governors and state and local emergency authorities also use parts of the system to issue more localized emergency alerts. Kim Carver, director of the Scioto County Emergency Management Agency, said the test is an important exercise in ensuring the system is effective in communicating critical information to the public in the event of a real national emergency. She said it is a critical communications tool that can provide alerts, warning and information rapidly across multiple television and radio platforms.
The test will last about 30 seconds and will look and sound very similar to the local tests of the Emergency Alert System that occur frequently.
“It will be just like they do the weekly test of the Emergence Alert System,” Carver said. “The cable TV stations, the radio stations will all do the shortened EAS tone, and they will say ‘This is a test. If this had been an actual event, you have been instructed where to turn.’”
Carver said the National Weather Service already does a test for the local EAS office every Wednesday.
“There have been periodic regional type tests of this system on a weekly basis,” Carver said. “But there has never been a nationwide test in which all of the media outlets would be involved in setting off the Emergency Alert System. And that’s exactly what would happen if we had a national incident.”
Carver said testing the Emergency Alert System plays a key role in evaluating and improving the systems we need in place to ensure the nation is prepared for all hazards and that people within its borders are able to receive critical information through the system, should it be needed. She said it’s important to keep in mind that this is not a pass or fail test, but an opportunity to improve the system on a national level.
Carver said making the first nationwide test a success will require support from federal partners, state, tribal, territorial and local government, the private sector, non-profits, the faith-based community, and the general public. For months, the FCC and FEMA have been working together with all of the test’s participants, including broadcasters, satellite and cable providers to prepare for the nationwide test and to provide technical best practices.
“In the days leading up to the test we are continuing an aggressive public education and outreach campaign and asking all of our partners to join us. Our goal to make sure all members of the public know the test is happening and what to expect,” Carver said. “Be sure to tell your family and friends about the test on Wednesday, Nov. 9, at 2 p.m. eastern.”
FRANK LEWIS may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 232, or firstname.lastname@example.org.