National EAS test assesses reliability and effectiveness of system

Jennifer Berke

Radio stations and TV channels all over the country aired a nationwide Emergency Alert System test Wednesday to unify communication in the case of a national emergency.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, along with the Federal Communications Commission and the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, organized a national emergency broadcast alert that would signal an undisclosed national emergency, said FEMA spokeswoman Stephanie Moffett.

“We are doing the test now to see what works, what doesn’t and what improvements need to be made,” Moffett said. “It’s been in the works for months, and we wanted to do this when there was a time to test things out before something happens — if something happens — to merit the use of the system.”

In case of a national emergency, messages will be aired on televisions and radio stations nationally just like the local alert systems people are familiar with now, Moffett said. The only difference is that this was the first nationwide test, and all radio stations and TV channels to participated, she said.

Ann Arnold, president of the Texas Association of Broadcasters, said that the alert system is a useful diagnostic test for communicating with people across the nation.

“The EAS test is certainly still a viable mechanism for distributing information,” Arnold said.

A younger generation may be more interested in newer forms of technology, but broadcasting is the most reliable means of communication, Arnold said.

The Amber Alert test, which notifies people about child abduction through local and regional broadcast channels, exemplifies the effectiveness of using this medium, she said.

“Internet goes in and out, and cell phones don’t always have the best reception to receive text messages,” Arnold said. “Part of this is [also] testing the equipment and machinery of the system to make sure everything works in the case that we would need it to.”

FEMA spokeswoman Rachel Racusen said in a statement that FCC and FEMA are currently collecting data about the results.

“This initial test was the first time we have tested the reach and scope of this technology and what additional improvements that should be made to the system as we move forward,” Racusen said. “Only through comprehensively testing, analyzing and improving these technologies can we ensure an effective and reliable national emergency alert and warning system.”

Published on Thursday, November 10, 2011 as: National EAS test assesses effectiveness of alert system