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County prepares for emergency alert test
“This is a test. This is only a test.”
Those words will be heard on all TV and radio stations across the United States on Nov. 9, as the federal government runs its first test of the national Emergency Alert System (EAS).
The test will interrupt all TV and radio programming for approximately three minutes, beginning at 11 a.m. Nov. 9 (2 p.m. EST).
According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the test is being conducted by a number of federal agencies, including the the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the FCC itself, and the National Weather Service. These agencies have “EAS management responsibilities,” according to the FCC.
The FCC indicates that during the test, viewers will hear a message that says “This is a test.” The national test will resemble the monthly tests done at the local level that most people are familiar with, but there may be some differences in what viewers will see and hear, according to the FCC.
The audio message will be the same for all listening, according to the FCC, but the visual image displayed on TVs may differ from location to location. This is because there are some limitations in the EAS, meaning that the video scroll seen on TV may not be the same for all participants or even indicate that there is a test is occurring.
All participants in the test will have to report back to the FCC on the results of the test. That information includes “whether, and from whom, they received the alert message and whether they rebroadcast.” FEMA and the FCC will study these results to determine any system issues and how to best remedy them. The FCC anticipates that a national test “will be conducted periodically to ensure that the EAS is, and remains, functional.”
Lynne Miller, communications specialist for the King County Office of Emergency Management, said it is an important test for the country’s emergency preparedness.
“Locally, we know it’s happening,” she said. “This is to test something at the national level, just like we test every month (at the local level). This is coming from the White House down, and that’s what makes it kind of significant.”
Miller said there are a number of public service announcements that have been made available to the public, and that those announcements will increase in frequency as the test date approaches. Those public service announcements can be viewed at the FCC website, www.fcc.gov.
“There’s been a real effort to make sure the public understands what this test is,” Miller said. “And because we are a nation that’s so diverse, those PSAs are in Spanish and English. Here in our region, I expect that those would be translated into other languages by the various communities.”