For years, local television and radio stations have periodically tested the Emergency Alert System with familiar tones followed by “This is a test…,” but on Wednesday, Nov. 9, for the first time ever, a nationwide test of the alert system will take place.
While the Emergency Alert System is often used by state and local emergency managers for weather warnings, it has never been used or tested at a national level. “In a major disaster that affects large areas, such as an earthquake, this system could be used to broadcast life-saving information very quickly,” said Chuck Thacker, chief of the Grandview, Mo., fire department and chair of the Metropolitan Emergency Managers Committee. “We need a full-scale test to be sure that the system will work as intended when a nationwide alert goes out.”
At 1 p.m. CST on Wednesday, Nov. 9, radio stations, local television stations, wireline video services, and cable and satellite providers in the Kansas City metropolitan area will join other broadcasters across the country for a simultaneous test of the system. Although the test will be similar to the routine monthly tests most of us are familiar with, there are a few key differences:
- The nationwide test will last longer than normal — approximately three minutes.
- While the audio message will include the words “This is a test” and be the same for everyone, the video test may vary due to differing technologies. Viewers should be aware that the video messages may or may not include the words “This is a test” in the background image or scroll at the bottom of the screen.
- The test will be conducted through broadcast media only — it will not include NOAA weather radios, mobile devices or outdoor warning sirens.
The nationwide Emergency Alert System test will be conducted jointly by the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Federal Communications Commission and National Weather Service. These agencies selected the date, Nov. 9, because it is near the end of hurricane season and before the severe winter weather season begins. The time (1 p.m. CST) was selected to occur during working hours in time zones across the nation, minimizing disruption by avoiding traffic rush hours.
“We hope everyone in the metro area will take this opportunity to think about what they would do in a real emergency,” said Bob Evans, emergency manager for Wyandotte County, Kan., and vice chair of the Metropolitan Emergency Managers Committee. “Do you have a family emergency plan, with a predetermined meeting place? Do you have emergency supplies on hand?”
The committee maintains a website, www.preparemetrokc.org, with preparedness tips for various types of disasters, as well as an online tool for creating a family plan. “The best time to prepare for a disaster is before it happens,” said Evans. “While the alert system can provide basic instructions during an emergency, we all need to take personal responsibility to make sure we’re ready.”