Several U.S. government agencies have determined that Nov. 9, 2011 at 2 p.m. EST is when the first nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System (EAS) will be conducted.
The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) have agreed to conduct the national test of the EAS—which may last up to three minutes and 30 seconds—on that date.
The EAS is a national alert and warning system established to enable the President of the United States to address the American public during emergencies.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Weather Service, as well as governors and state and local emergency authorities already use the system to issue more localized emergency alerts. Similar to local EAS tests that are already conducted, the nationwide test will involve broadcast radio and television stations, cable television, satellite radio and television services and wireline video service providers across all states and the territories of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and American Samoa.
A national test of the EAS, with the vital communications support and involvement of participants, is a step towards ensuring that the alert and warning community is prepared to deliver critical information that can help save lives and protect property, said Damon Penn, FEMA’s Assistant Administrator of National Continuity Programs. Because there has never been an activation of the EAS on a national level, FEMA views this test as an excellent opportunity to assess the readiness and effectiveness of the current system, he added.
The upcoming national test is critical to ensuring that the EAS works as designed, said Jamie Barnett, Chief of the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau. “As recent disasters here at home and in Japan have reminded us, a reliable and effective emergency alert and warning system is key to ensuring the public’s safety during times of emergency,” he added.
Nonetheless, Penn says the test “is not a pass or fail,” but a chance to establish a baseline for making incremental improvements to the EAS with ongoing and future testing, and the agencies “will continue to work on additional channels that can be a lifeline of information for people during an emergency.”