…This is a Test…
When I first interviewed for a position as an Emergency Management Public Information Officer, I distinctly remember the question: Do you know what Emergency Management does? I pondered, could I fake my way through the question or would I need to come clean. I chose the high road and responded, “I do not know exactly what Emergency Management does, but I assume it has everything to do with the blue line that scrolls across the bottom of television screen when there is a disaster.”
That blue line – I’ve come to know – is the Emergency Alert System or EAS. It’s a public notification system used by television and radio to notify listeners of disasters. It is accompanied by an alert tone, a rather annoying one, and a message, either print or verbal depending upon the medium. Television and radio stations are required to test their equipment each month, but November’s monthly test will be a little different, because it is the first time the EAS will air simultaneously nationwide on all television and radio stations.
Here are the details:
- WHEN: Wednesday, November 9 at 11am PDT, for three minutes
- WHERE: Every television and radio station, including cable television and satellite radio
- WHY: To test simultaneous nationwide alert and notification capabilities
Here are the challenges:
- It is possible the visual message on the television screen may not explicitly say “This is a TEST”
- It is unclear if the messages will be translated into languages other than English, as translation is left up to each specific station
- If someone is hearing impairedor does not understand English, they could take the test as an actual emergency situation
This is an opportunity to test mass notification and put the Federal Communications Commission on the path to integrated alerts that could include multiple alert points, including mobile phones. It is a huge undertaking and has been in the works for many months. The trick is to make sure everyone understands what it means when they see the simple blue line or hear theEAS signal coming from every television, cable, radio and satellite station on November 9th that it “…is a test and only a test…”
It is a chance to move beyond the simple blue line.