By Elsa Maxey
This is a test…this is only a test. So, don’t call 9-1-1. The emergency tone on radio and television next week is a nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System (EAS), the first ever across the country at one time, and it will occur on Wednesday, Nov. 9 at 1 p.m. in this area. The system is usually tested at the local level, but this one is different.
The alert transmission is a tone that will last a bit longer than the EAS tests that so many may have already heard and seen in the past. According to a FEMA National Community Programs administrator, the test audio message will be the same for both radio and TV. But, the screen image and the text, called a crawl on the TV screen, may not be the same for all viewers. The message and tone will last about three minutes.
An official FEMA blogs states that “While most messages, such as tsunami or hurricane warnings, are limited to two minutes by the emergency alert system, the Presidential message capability (which will be used in the national test) does not have a time limit. So to evaluate if the system properly interprets the Presidential message code in this test, the message duration must be longer than two minutes in length.”
You feeling creeped out? Local area heads up messages have come by way of the Fort Bend County Office of Emergency Management and in Missouri City, Scott Buchman with the communications department stated in a city advisory with information about the EAS test that the city’s radio station, WQMN 1690 AM, will not be participating in the test.
In the end, the purpose of the test next week is intended to assess the reliability and effectiveness of the EAS as a public alert capable of handling an actual emergency on a national level. According to the FCC website, the national EAS test is being conducted by the Department of Homeland Security through its Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Federal Communications Commission, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Weather Service, the three federal agencies that have EAS management responsibilities. Reportedly, after the test, both the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Emergency Management Agency will work together and make any necessary improvements to the system.
One of the concerns out there is “what if there is a real life emergency on that day and you will need to do a real alert, won’t the public just think that it is a test and just ignore it?” Good question, but the word “test” would probably not be a part of the audio nor the text.