Don't Panic! Nationwide Emergency Alert Test Planned
First test of its kind is scheduled for 2 p.m. on Wednesday.
The first national test of the Nationwide Emergency Alert System is scheduled for 2 p.m. Wednesday and the Morris County Office of Emergency Management has a message for everyone to keep in mind—it's only a test.
You might have other things to worry about come Wednesday afternoon, but the 30-second alerts on TVs and radios should not be among them.
Across the U.S., alerts will be broadcast on TV and radio stations for about 30 seconds. In some cases, the test message on TV might not indicate it is just a test because of limitations in the system, according the Federal Emergency Management Administration.
Last Friday, Elaine Caccavale, emergency medical services coordinator for Morris County, emailed all police chiefs, OEM coordinators, fire chiefs and EMS squad captains in the county about the alert, saying it could cause "undue public anxiety" if people don't know what's going on.
Their concerns were heightened by the fact the test initially was going to last three minutes, but officials have since shortened the duration to 30 seconds.
"There is great concern in local police and emergency management circles about undue public anxiety over this test," Caccavale wrote. "The test message on TV might not indicate that it is just a test. Fear is that the lack of an explanation message might create panic. Please share this information with your family and friends so they are aware of the test."
She said the more word gets out about the alert to calm any fears the public might otherwise have, the better.
What will people hear and see during the test?
During the test, listeners will hear a message indicating that “This is a test.” Although the EAS Test may resemble the periodic, monthly EAS tests that most Americans are already familiar with, there will be some differences in what viewers will see and hear. The audio message will be the same for all EAS Participants; however, due to limitations in the EAS, the video test message scroll may not be the same or indicate that “This is a test.” This is due to the use of the live EAN code – the same code that would be used in an actual emergency. The text at the top of the television screen may indicate that an “Emergency Action Notification has been issued.” This notification is used to disseminate a national alert and in this case, the test. In addition, the background image that appears on video screens during an alert may indicate that “This is a test,” but in some instances there might not be an image at all.
There are several limitations to the current EAS for individuals with access and functional needs. FEMA and the FCC are committed to providing organizations and the EAS community with information well in advance of the Test. FEMA and the FCC will further engage the EAS community to better understand the wide range of information and access needs in preparation for the national EAS. IPAWS has been performing outreach to access and functional needs organizations in several different forums, including working groups and roundtables led by the FEMA Office of Disability Integration and Coordination, with representation from multiple FEMA program offices, other Department of Homeland Security components, and other Federal Departments and Agencies.
How long will the test last?
The test will last for approximately 30 seconds.
Why is the test being conducted at this particular date and time?
The Nov. 9 date is near the end of hurricane season and before the severe winter weather season. The 2 p.m. Eastern broadcast time will minimize disruption during rush hours, while ensuring that the test can occur during normal business hours across several time zones.