We've all heard the words "This is a test of the Emergency Broadcast System. This is only a test." Be ready because on Nov. 9, expect to hear those words wherever you live in the United States as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is partnering with the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to conduct the first ever nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System (EAS).
When is the Emergency Alert System Test?
This nationwide test will be conducted on Wednesday, Nov. 9 at 2 p.m. eastern standard time. It is estimated that the test will last approximately three minutes, after which, regular programming on television and radio stations will resume.
What is the Emergency Alert System?
The EAS sends alerts across television and radio stations in all 50 U.S. states and the U.S. territories of American Samoa, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. When emergency alerts are activated, regular programming is interrupted with special announcements about the emergency and includes instructions and information for citizens.
In the event of a nationwide emergency, the EAS would be activated by the president to provide important information to the public. Local emergency services and NOAA also use part of the EAS system to send local alerts about specific hazards such as weather alerts that most of us hear on our NOAA weather radios.
The EAS was created in 1994 and took over from the precursor Emergency Broadcast System which was created in 1963.
What is the EAS Test?
According to the FEMA website, 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."
If you are watching television, listening to the radio or have your NOAA weather radio on at 2 p.m. November 9, you will hear the words "This is
Why is this test being conducted?
In the event of a real national emergency in which all citizens will need to be informed quickly and accurately about the emergency, the EAS would be activated to instruct and inform the public. This test on November 9 is being conducted to make sure that system is reliable and effective as a method of alerting the public during an emergency.
State and local tests of the system are conducted monthly and weekly, but before now, there has never been a coordinated nationwide testing of the alert system.
Why would the EAS be activated?
The EAS would be activated by a major national disaster -- for example a major earthquake or a tsunami -- as a means of providing the American public with warnings, information and instructions during such an emergency.
Tammy Lee Morris is certified as a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) member and is a trained Skywarn Stormspotter through the National Weather Service. She has received interpretive training regarding the New Madrid Seismic Zone through EarthScope -- a program of the National Science Foundation. She researches and writes about earthquakes, volcanoes, tornadoes, weather and other natural phenomena.