On Wednesday at 2 p.m. the Federal Emergency Management Agency, in cooperation with the Federal Communications Commission and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, will conduct for the first time a nationwide Emergency Alert System test.
According to officials, an Emergency Action Notification message will be relayed from the White House Communications Room to 61 “Primary Entry Point” radio stations across the United States, who will then broadcast the alert to 25 “Local Primary I” and 25 “Local Primary II” stations, and in some areas to local “Primary Spanish” station.
“This is a test” is what frequently is said when the Emergency Alert System has been activated in the past. Every test up to Wednesday has always been conducted on a state or local level; there has never been a national activation of the system.
Federal officials are conducting the test on Wednesday to assess the readiness and effectiveness of the current system and identify improvements to better serve communities in the preservation of life and property, according to official statements.
FEMA officials have stated that the alert warning system is in a state of transition from the current system of radio, television, cable, satellite, and wireline broadcast media based alerting to a future system that uses and intergrates new technologies for a more universal access to alert and warning messages.
The system has been used and will be used for alerts and warnings regarding weather threats, child abductions and other types of national, regional, state and local 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.
What you will hear or see during the test will vary depending on your location and what type of media source you are getting the message on. Officials have stated that the audio message will be the same for everyone starting with “This is a test”.
However, the video test message may not be the same. Some might see on the screen an image that appears with “This is a test” some might not see an image at all. This is part of the test procedure to see what broadcasters will be able to send out to viewers.
The test will last approximately three (3) minutes. It is being conducted at 2 p.m. to minimize disruption during rush hour while making sure the test occurs during working hours across the country. It is also near the end of hurricane season and just before severe winter weather season start.
Mobile devices will not be included during this test. Only broadcast radio and television, cable television, satellite radio and television and wireline video services will participate.
The system was first created by President Harry S. Truman in 1951 and was called CONELRAD at the time. Since that time no president has ever used a national warning system such as CONELRAD, the Emergency Broadcast System or the Emergency Alert System (currently used) to issue an Emergency Action Notification message.