First nationwide EAS test: a few glitches, but not bad (video)


Well, the first nationwide test wasn’t perfect, but it wasn’t a dismal failure, either. First of all, not all stations ran the test right at 2PM ET. The audio was understandable, but not great. For some broadcasters, it was completely garbled or had no sound at all. Some of the tones were played on top of the announcement, as well.

What we heard (listening in live to Richmond, VA, Fredericksburg, VA and DC-area radio stations up and down the dial) sounded like an overworked traffic reader getting the information out with too many people and police scanners on in the background. But it was still understandable and the stations we heard did a good job overall.

Now, the FCC and FEMA will have plenty to go over as they review the reports that broadcasters are now required to file.

Said the NAB’s EVP/Communications Dennis Wharton on First-Ever Nationwide Test of Emergency Alert System: “Our initial feedback is that most radio and television stations ran the Nationwide EAS test successfully, although some isolated glitches may have occurred. We look forward to continuing to work with our federal partners to diagnose and improve the EAS system.”

As you continue covering today’s first nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System, we wanted to share a joint statement on the initial feedback about the test, from Damon Penn, a senior official with FEMA and Jamie Barnett, a senior official with the FCC:

“The Nationwide EAS Test served the purpose for which it was intended – to identify gaps and generate a comprehensive set of data to help strengthen our ability to communicate during real emergencies. Based on preliminary data, media outlets in large portions of the country successfully received the test message, but wasn’t received by some viewers or listeners.  We are currently in the process of collecting and analyzing data, and will reach a conclusion when that process is complete.”

It is also important to keep several key points in mind:
First, as we have explained throughout this process, the value of the test is in its assessment function. We were able to accomplish that today—in a comprehensive way.

The goal of this test has always been to do exactly what happened – to test this decades-old system to see what works well, and what upgrades or changes are needed as we further work to modernize our nation’s public alert and warning system.

This test was the first time we have been able to identify where the system works, where it doesn’t, and what additional improvements need to be made as we move forward. It’s only through comprehensively testing, analyzing, and improving these technologies that we can ensure the most effective and reliable emergency alert and warning systems available at a moment’s notice in a time of real national emergency.

Second, it will take some time to assess the full results of today’s test. The FCC and FEMA are currently collecting preliminary data about the results, and under the FCC’s rules, participants in today’s test have 45 days to report back the full results of their test experience. Over 30,000 communications service providers participated in the test, including broadcast stations, cable system operators, satellite radio and television and wireline video service providers.  Over the next several weeks, these service providers will be providing test result data to the FCC and we will continue working closely with our many other stakeholders to get their feedback on how the test was received. It’s important that both the news media, all our stakeholders, and the public understand that it will take some time to fully analyze the effectiveness of the test and what improvements are needed.

We 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.”    

Here are some videos of the EAS fail, from The Weather Channel and a better job from KVUE-TV Austin: