By: Seth Arenstein at 05:39 pm
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.
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