Photo: Paul Keleher via Flickr
At 2 pm today the National Emergency Alert System is supposed be tested for the first time in its history on a federal level. As of 2:03 the system has yet to be activated.Every TV and radio station in the nation is supposed to broadcast the test alert — sent from inside the White House — for 30 seconds.
The system was created in 1963 to allow the President to address the nation in the time of nuclear attack or other national crisis.
UPDATE: Brian Stelter tweets: At the NYT media desk, we heard the test via a radio, but we haven’t seen it via cable television.
UPDATE 2: It’s 2:07 and we still haven’t seen the test on any cable network. We’re calling the FCC, which oversees the system, for comment.
UPDATE 3 2:09pm: According to Twitter, the test displayed on CNBC and MSNBC in Washington. We still haven’t seen anything in New York.
“We’re still getting the results back now, and we’ll put out a statement soon,” a spokeswoman for the Federal Emergency Management Agency tells us.
The test was supposed to break into all radio and television— broadcast and cable — networks. Though it does not seem to have worked on New York City cable networks, among others.
UPDATE 4 2:20pm: We are waiting to hear back from the FCC and FEMA, though the test has clearly failed at its stated goal of reaching all Americans across all radio and television stations.
FEMA’s tagline for the system test was “don’t stress; it’s only a test…” But maybe there is reason to fret.
UPDATE 5 2:46pm: FEMA is still processing the results, according to a spokesperson, and they do not yet have a handle on the scale of the failure.
They released this statement a few moments ago by Rachel Racusen, FEMA Spokeswoman:
“The nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System test was administered and the FCC and FEMA are currently collecting data about the results. This initial test was the first time we have tested the reach and scope of this technology and what additional improvements that should be made to the system as we move forward. Only through comprehensively testing, analysing, and improving these technologies can we ensure an effective and reliable national emergency alert and warning system. We thank all of our partners who made this test possible and look forward to working with all our stakeholders to improve this current technology and build a robust, resilient, and fully accessible next generation alerting system that can provide timely and accurate alerts to the American people.”
UPDATE 6 2:49pm: National Journal’s Marc Ambinder tweets: FEMA official concedes “glitch”; says that it appears (maybe) to be related to how satellite and cable providers prepped their equipment.
UPDATE 7 2:59pm: Some DirectTV customers reported hearing Lady Gaga’s “Paparazzi” play during the test. Some Comcast subscribers saw their cable boxes turn to QVC before the alert, while Time Warner Cable customers in New York did not see any alert at all.
UPDATE 8 4:05pm: Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman released this statement to Business Insider:
“The weaknesses exposed by today’s test of the emergency alert system are unacceptable. Government and media carriers must work together to make sure the system does what it is intended to do, which is to transmit a nationwide message from the President in a crisis. I commend FEMA for carrying out this long-overdue, first-ever, nationwide test of the system. Without it, we would never have known the extent of the system’s vulnerabilities.”
Here is the press release:
As part of our ongoing efforts to keep our country and communities safe during emergencies, we’re working in partnership with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to conduct the first nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System (EAS). The EAS test plays a key role in ensuring the nation is prepared for any type of hazard, and that the U.S. public can receive critical and vital information should it ever be needed.
Over the past year, our agencies have been working with the broadcast community, cable operators and programmers, and other communications service providers that participate in the Emergency Alert System; our state, local, tribal, and territorial partners; and other critical stakeholders to help inform all members of the public regarding the nationwide Emergency Alert System test.
Here are specific items we want everyone to know about the test:
- It will be conducted Wednesday, November 9 at 2:00 PM EST.
- It will be transmitted via television and radio stations within the U.S., including Alaska, Hawaii, the territories of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and American Samoa.
- Similar to local emergency alert system tests, an audio message will interrupt television and radio programming indicating: “This is a test.”
- When the test is over, regular programming will resume.
As we get close to the test, the FCC and all of our many partners are working together to spread the word to as many members of the public as possible — so people know what to expect when the test takes place, and no one is caught off guard. We’re asking everyone to join us by spreading the word to your neighbours, co-workers, friends and family — share this web page, post a message on your social media site, and feel free to embed our videos on your website or blog.
On November 9 at 2:00 PM EST, please remember:
don’t stress; it’s only a test..
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