By JASON RYAN
Wednesday when you’re settling down to watch “One Life to Live” on ABC, your other favorite daytime TV program, or listening to the radio at 2 p.m. EST/11 a.m. PST, the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will conduct the first ever nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System (EAS).
The test will be carried on all broadcast television, radio stations, and cable and satellite television systems in the US and US territories. Although EAS has been used locally for many tests and notifications, such as tornadoes, there has never been a nationwide test.
Although an audio notification will state, “This is a test,” the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the FCC say that because of limitations in the old alert system, not all TV stations may be able to carry the words “This is a test” on some TV screens.
The system, initially designed in the 1950s, is run by FEMA and the FCC. In 2006 President Bush signed an executive order to mandate the nationwide system and national alert capability.
Since the national system has never been tested, DHS officials say this is an important trial to see how it works. It is expected to last 30 seconds.
FEMA and the FCC want to ensure that the deaf and those hard of hearing, people with cognitive or mental health concerns, senior citizens, and people not proficient in English are aware of it.
“You may not see the familiar test banner crawling across your screens. We want you to know this is a test,” FEMA administrator Craig Fugate said in a recent video posted on FEMA’s website.
FEMA has more information and videos here: www.fema.gov/eastest/
“It’s our opportunity to check to make sure that our systems are working across the country if we have a national emergency. Because of the system design not all of you will see the crawl that says this is a test. It will say this is an emergency alert. But we want you to understand this is a test,” Fugate said.
Officials say the system could be used to ensure that the President and officials can address the nation during a significant emergency such as a natural disaster, terrorist attack or cyber incident.
DHS and FEMA are currently working on expanding the EAS by developing the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS), which will allow nationwide alerts to be sent to wireless mobile devices and phones. Working with the FCC, they are also working on the Commercial Mobile Alert System (CMAS) and the Personalized Local Alert Network (PLAN), which would allow local alerts to be sent wireless technology and devices.
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