Emergency Alert System to be Verified Wednesday

Nov 9, 2011, 08:58 by R.E. Christian

A 30-second nationwide test will determine how well the U.S. Emergency Alert System can warn the public during a national emergency, officials said.

Wednesday's unprecedented national test -- expected to air simultaneously over every broadcast, cable and satellite TV and radio station and network at 2 p.m. EST -- will permit the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Federal Communications Commission to assess how well the system "would perform its primary function -- alerting the public about a national emergency," FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate and FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said in a statement.

"The various disasters our country has faced this year underscore the need for effective and well-tested emergency alert and warning systems that could be used in a time of real emergency, at a moment's notice," their statement said.

The test -- which will take place in every state and the territories of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and American Samoa -- will not extend to landline or cellphones, pagers or the Internet, officials said.

It will be the first national test featuring a live "presidential" alert code, instructing TV and radio stations the alert takes priority over all other programming, CNN reported. It would be followed by a presidential address in a real emergency.

In a real emergency, the warning would originate from wherever the president is. On Wednesday, the test will originate from a FEMA operations center, officials said.

President Barack Obama will not be involved and will not speak, they said.

State and local communities regularly use the system to notify communities about tornadoes and flash floods, child abductions and other urgent situations.

All previous tests of the 14-year-old system -- which superseded the Emergency Broadcast System, used from 1963 to 1997 -- were done locally or regionally and involved broadcasters' voluntary compliance.

The emergency system was not activated nationally or regionally in New York or Washington during the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Nor did any president use the predecessor systems, despite the October 1962 Cuban missile crisis with the Soviet Union, the November 1964 assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas and the April 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, which claimed 168 lives in the most destructive terrorism act on U.S. soil prior to the Sept. 11 attacks.

Source: UPI