November 02, 2011

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The National EAS Test: What It Is, How You Can Help

Most of us have seen tests of the Emergency Alert System (EAS) on our televisions or heard them on our radios. Those tests are local exercises, conducted each week to insure that the EAS is working well.

There also is a national component to the EAS, which would allow the President to address the nation during a crisis within 10 minutes of a White House request. Despite the existence of such a system, no President has used it in nearly 60 years. In fact, the federal government has yet to stage a test of the EAS on a national or regional level.

That will change on November 9, at 2pm EST, when the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and its Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) conduct the first nationwide test of EAS. You don’t need to take any action regarding the test, but we think you should be aware of it. There’s also an aspect of the test that you might be able to act on, which we’ll discuss in a moment.

When the test begins, most of you will see an image on your screen announcing the test. There also will be an audio announcement signaling that a test is underway. If you’re recording a program during that time, it’s likely your recording device will cut off. Once the test is completed it is anticipated that your TV might experience difficulties. For example, you might have trouble accessing Video On Demand and Pay Per View. Should any difficulties occur, they likely will clear up within an hour.

As we said above, it is likely most of you will see an image across your screen stating that this is a test. But there’s a chance you’ll only hear an announcement. And it’s likely that some viewers might be confused about the test. As a result, the FCC, FEMA and NOAA are reaching out to the hearing-disabled community in a variety of ways to publicize the test, including with videos with captions and American Sign Language, in English and in Spanish.

We’re also doing our part, alerting our subscribers in various way and running Public Service Announcements (PSAs) about the test that include captions and American Sign Language. Leading up to Nov. 9, you’ll also likely see multi-lingual PSAs, blog posts, Tweets and other communication from various sources informing the public about the scheduled test. We’d appreciate your help in letting your friends, family and neighbors know about the test, particularly if they have a hearing disability or some other disability that might hinder their understanding of the situation.

Please be aware that the test is not specific to Time Warner Cable. All U.S. broadcast radio and television stations, cable systems, satellite radio and television providers and wireline video services are required to participate in the test. You should not be able to tune away from the test, as you can during weekly local tests.

As we said above, the test is set to begin at 2pm EST. It’s expected to last for roughly 30 seconds, which is shorter than the local EAS tests that we’re accustomed to. Please note, some older articles, blog posts and announcements refer to the test lasting for 3 minutes. Recently that was changed. The test now is expected to have a duration of roughly 30 seconds.

Other than its length, the fact that there might not be a visual message indicating it’s a test and the sound of the signal you will hear, the national EAS test outwardly should not seem very different from the local EAS tests you’re used to.

For our subscribers in the Midwest and the West, please understand it might take a bit longer for the test signal to reach your part of the country.

November 9 was chosen because it is near the end of hurricane season and before severe winter weather. Conducting the test at 2pm EST should minimize disruption during rush hour, while ensuring the test occurs during the work day.

We hope there never will be a need for EAS to be used, but it’s good to know it exists and will work if necessary.

Related Links:

This is Only a Test

FCC Information Regarding the Test

+- 8 Comments

  1. Jason's reply

    Here in Lima OH it gets checked EVERY NIGHT between 3 and 4 am. Most ridiculous thing I have ever seen. Gives no info just the noise.

  2. Paul's reply

    I was wondering, why does this have to happen in the middle of the afternoon? Why not at 2 AM when everyone is asleep? Unless they are expecting something to happen, like, maybe something is about to fall out of the sky? Why the middle of the afternoon if this is just a test? I’m VERY curious!

  3. jeffrey's reply

    What test I had the tv on never heard or saw a thing at 2pm

  4. Susan P's reply

    We were left out of the test and were told to notify TW – Ulysses, Pa. 16948

  5. Jennifer's reply

    The test lasted WAY longer than 30 seconds, at least 10-15 minutes. Part way into it the sound from the regularly scheduled program blasted out. It’s not a big deal no harm done, I’m just not sure how reliable this system would be in case of an actual emergency. As far as tests go, fail

  6. Ron Gregg's reply

    It lasted at least 25 minutes or more here in Southern California…both boxes locked so channel could not be changed….no explanation from the folks here at Time Warner So Cal. Why? Don’t they at least owe an apology or an explanation or both?

  7. james's reply

    disgusted with constant interruptions which are very injurious to animal ears as well as humans (infants, etc.)…why so many loud racuous interruptions and some do not even make sense…FCC ?????? ordains this behavior or NOT???
    Really does take away from when my have a REAL emergency. Why is TWC interrupting the nighttime operation of my TV when I am paying for 24/7 service….and paying dearly!!!!

  8. Rebecca Hall's reply

    On Friday the 2nd of March, we heard a local siren around 5:30 p.m. We had two TVs on. I muted them and confirmed it was a siren. We don’t live in a tornado prone area, but there had been a watch issued that afternoon. There was NOTHING on any channels indicating something had changed. Fortunately, we have a marine radio and I tuned into NOAA weather channel and there was the announcement it was now a warning and to take shelter NOW. No EAS warning whatsoever on any channels. We were lucky the tornado didn’t hit us. But this speaks volumes about how effective this system is. Yet their required weekly test (which happens many times more than that) is effective at interrupting shows and recordings. In fact, while I was reading this article (8:15 a.m.) one went off!

    We are located in south east Ohio and Time Warner is the only cable company available. A technician came out last week (for the umpteenth time) to repair our service. I asked him about it and his comment was “Welcome to the Obama administration.” I don’t know about that, but found it an interesting comment. He went on to say the government has taken control of this and that’s why it’s happening. I couldn’t find anything supporting this. But there’s definitely been a change of some kind and it’s not a good one for paying customers and service interruptions. Especially when this system is supposed to warn of danger/disasters, etc. and it failed.

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