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First FCC/FEMA Nationwide Emergency Alert System Test





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First FCC/FEMA Nationwide Emergency Alert System Test

  • The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Federal Emergency Management Authority (FEMA) are planning the first Emergency Alert System (EAS) nationwide test, which will take place at 2:00 PM (EST), Wednesday, November 9, 2011. The test will last approximately three (3) minutes. Normal programming will return following the test.
  • FCC and FEMA are conducting a public relations campaign utilizing print, broadcast, and other media to prepare the public for the test and the fact that a “live” alert code is being used. If you are part of an organization, below is a draft article that could be used for use in your group’s newsletters, telephone trees, blogs, meeting announcements, or any other way your group uses to communicate important information.
  • The November 9 test will utilize a “live” national alert code, i.e., a coded message that will make it appear as an actual emergency announcement, not a test. This is necessary in order to allow FCC and FEMA to test the actual working order of EAS equipment and the state of readiness of EAS operators and participants.
  • An audio message will precede the alert message announcing that the exercise is a Test Only. Other information will be broadcast after the test concludes.
  • Additional information about the test is available at the FCC’s website



ONLY A TEST. On November 9, 2011, at 2 PM Eastern Standard Time (EST), the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will conduct the first-ever nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System (EAS). At that time, an announcement will come on every TV and radio channel indicating that there is an emergency. This is only a test! Please do not be alarmed when you see this test. You do not need to take any action.

The purpose of this test is to assess how well the EAS can alert the public about dangers to life and property during certain national emergencies. Although the FCC and FEMA are taking steps to ensure that everyone has access to the announcements made during the test, some people watching cable television (as well as some others) may only receive an audio (not a visual) notice that this is a test. Both agencies are now working to ensure that you are aware of the test so that you understand that this is not a real emergency.

What is the EAS? EAS alerts are sent over the radio or television (broadcast, cable and satellite). State and local emergency managers use these alerts to notify the public about emergencies and weather events, such as tornadoes and hurricanes. EAS can also be used to send an alert across the United States in the case of a national emergency. It is common for state and local EAS tests to occur on a weekly and monthly basis. But there has never been a test of the nationwide system on all broadcast, cable, satellite radio and television systems at the same time.

The purpose of the November 9th test is to see how EAS would work in case public safety officials ever need to send an alert or warning to a large region of the United States. If a major disaster such as an earthquake or tsunami occurs, EAS could be used to send life-saving information to the public.

What will be different about this EAS test? The nationwide test conducted on November 9th may be similar to other EAS tests that you may have seen in the past. These have an audio EAS tone and a message indicating “This is a test of the Emergency Alerting System.” But this nationwide test will last a little longer: around 3 minutes. In addition, due to some technical limitations, a visual message indicating that “this is a test may not pop up on every TV channel, especially where people use cable to receive their television stations. For these reasons, the FCC and FEMA are taking extra steps to educate the public, especially people with hearing disabilities, that this is only a test.

For more information about how this EAS test may affect you, please visit:

Submitted by:
Michael Barrick, CFI, FPSS, CCPM
Assistant State Fire Marshal
Program Manager
WV State Fire Marshal's Office

Last updated Wednesday January 11, 2012 03:08 PM



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