On November 9, 2011, at approximately 2:00 p.m. Eastern time, the federal government will conduct the first-ever end-to-end national test of the Emergency Alert System, or EAS. Though an emergency warning system has been in place in the U.S., in one form or another, since the 1950s, and is tested in each state on a weekly and monthly basis, there has never been a nationwide test of the system. The purpose of the test is to ensure that, if ever needed, a Presidential alert message that warns of a national emergency can be disseminated throughout the nation. (Thankfully, EAS and its predecessor systems, EBS and CONELRAD, have never been used for a Presidential nationwide alert.)
Although the National EAS Test may resemble the localized monthly EAS tests that most Americans are already familiar with, there will be some differences in what viewers will see and hear.
During the Nov. 9 test, listeners will hear a message indicating that “This is a test.” The audio message will be the same on both radio and TV.
However, due to limitations in the EAS, the text message scrolling at the top of your TV screen will NOT indicate that “This is a test.” The Nov. 9 test will use the EAN event code (Emergency Action Notification) – the same code that would be used in an actual emergency. The scrolling text at the top of your television screen will say something like, “The Primary Entry Point System has issued an Emergency Action Notification for Washington, D.C.” In addition, the background image that appears on TV screens during an alert may indicate that “This is a test,” but in some instances there might not be an image at all, particularly if you receive your TV signals via cable or satellite.
Rest assured, however, that THIS IS ONLY A TEST!
The test will last for about three minutes.
This national EAS test will allow radio and television stations and other so-called EAS Participants to test their equipment and their capability to receive a national warning message. While it is hoped that the national test is a 100% success across the nation, the test will allow EAS Participants to identify and correct any problems with reception and relay of a national EAS message.