On November 9, 2011, at 2 PM Eastern Standard Time (EST), the FCC and FEMA will conduct the first-ever, nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System (EAS). EAS alerts are transmitted over radio and television broadcast stations, cable television and other media services. The purpose of the November 9th test is to assess the reliability and effectiveness of the system as a way to alert the public during nationwide emergencies. Although FEMA and the FCC are taking steps to ensure that broadcast announcements are made during the test, some people may not see or hear these announcements and, as a result, 9-1-1 Call Centers may receive calls. That is why both agencies are conducting various outreach activities to educate 9-1-1 Call Centers and other public safety agencies about the test. In addition, the FCC has established a website dedicated to the November 9th test which can be found on PSHSB’s website at www.fcc.gov/pshs. Moreover, both agencies plan to work with EAS stakeholders to educate the public in advance of the test.
In existence since 1994, the EAS is an alert and warning system designed to transmit emergency alerts and warnings to the public at the national, state, tribal and local levels. EAS Participants broadcast alerts and warnings regarding weather alerts, child abductions and other types of emergencies. Although local and state components of the EAS are tested on a weekly and monthly basis, there has never been an end-to-end nationwide test or a national activation of the system. We need to know that the system will work as intended should public safety officials ever need to send an alert or warning to a large region of the United States. Only a top-down, simultaneous test of all components of the EAS on a nationwide basis can do this.
On November 9th at 2 PM EST, FEMA will transmit the EAS code for national emergencies. The EAS code and alert will be rebroadcast by broadcast stations and other service providers until it has been distributed throughout the entire country and U.S. territories.
Although the nationwide test will be similar to the monthly and weekly tests that the public is used to, there will be some differences. For example, the November 9th test will be longer – approximately three minutes – compared to the usual two minute monthly test.
Additional information can be found at the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau website at www.fcc.gov/pshs.