This Wednesday, television and radio broadcasters will conduct a test. It will only be a test.
On November 9 at 2:00 p.m. EST, the Emergency Alert System (EAS) will conduct its first-ever nationwide test on all radio and television stations. This test will interrupt programming for three minutes.
Emergency broadcasting has existed under different names. The first system, CONELRAD, was instituted in 1951 by President Harry S. Truman to provide Americans with emergency information pertinent to the Cold War. Since its inception, emergency broadcasting has gone through numerous incarnations with different names, and expanded to include information including weather emergencies.
While EAS tests have been performed on a state level, a nationwide test has never been conducted, and there has never been an emergency urgent enough to use an emergency broadcast.
Mark Tolstedt, Professor of Communication and former faculty advisor for WWSP-90FM, the university’s radio station, says that people should not be alarmed and the national test is not an indicator for trouble in the future.
"It’s just good planning and preparation. I don’t think it has anything to do with our threat level," Tolstedt said.
Tolstedt compared the tests and broadcasters to medical professionals running practice situations to make sure they’re prepared for real emergencies.
"You want paramedics to go out on practice calls because when the real call comes in they are trained. We want any emergency personnel to be trained, and that’s what this is doing, across the country," Tolstedt said.
WWSP-90FM’s Station Advisor John Gosz said that the campus station should be prepared for this test, and that new equipment was installed last spring to ensure they would be ready.
While Gosz acknowledged the importance of newer technologies such as the internet and wireless devices, he insisted that radio is a great method to distribute important emergency information because of its ease of access and availability to the public.
"It’s less of a prominent source, but it is a reliable and time-tested source. It works. That probably cannot be said of the internet and other wireless technology. It’s a simple system, and radio is still widely used and free to the public," Gosz said.
Gosz said he is thankful that there has never been a need to use the EAS on a national level.
"Fortunately it has never been used. There has never been a situation of that great importance that it needed to be activated. If there was, it would be a very serious emergency," Gosz said.