Nationwide Emergency Alert System test Wednesday: What it means for you
A nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System will interrupt programming on television and radio stations at 2 p.m. Wednesday.
The test, originally planned for three minutes, will now last only 30 seconds, but broadcasts will be interrupted for about a minute, including pre- and post-announcements, said Marc Breckenridge, emergency services director for the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office. The Federal Emergency Management Agency, in coordination with the Federal Communications Commission and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, will conduct the test.
Although tests are conducted monthly on state and local levels, the federal government has actually never tested the nationwide Emergency Alert System, which replaced the older Emergency Broadcast System, Breckenridge said. It’s something local emergency responders have been complaining about for years, he said. “We have been saying, ‘Guys you’ve got to get your act together.”
It was particularly disappointing, Breckenridge said, that the Emergency Alert System was not activated during the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001. “I was very surprised on 9/ll that the system we had invested so much blood, sweat and tears in nationwide wasn’t used,” he said.
That experience has led local officials to decide that they won’t wait for federal government activation if there is a 9/11-level event in the future. Should such an event occur, local officials would activate their own system, including sounding outdoor warning sirens, a signal that residents should tune into local broadcast outlets for instructions and information. “We’re going to make sure that our community knows that they should tune into local media,” Breckenridge said.
On Wednesday, local officials’ job will be to receive the signal in the Emergency Operations Center and over text messaging systems during the test. Outdoor sirens will not sound. If all intended recipients actually get the message, the test will be a success.
While some may view the test as inconvenient, it’s sorely needed, he said.
“We think that this is really important. We hope that that is will help to improve the communication of important information to the public when it’s really important for them to receive it.”