Tomorrow, Wednesday, the entire country will experience the first test of the new national Emergency Alert System (EAS), the Washington State Patrol has announced this week.
What that entails will be a thirty-second alarm over all radio, TV, cable and satellite communication systems simultaneously throughout the entire country, and will occur at 11 am, Pacific Time.
This level of emergency broadcast is unprecedented in the Untied States, and most forms of public communication will be involved. Perhaps most dramatically will be the simultaneous broadcast of the alarm on every TV screens in the nation, along with all radio broadcasts being interrupted and announcing the test as well.
For most of the emergency broadcast, President Obama will be speaking, according to Sherri Badger, Communications Director for the Pierce County Department of Emergency Management.
However, the nature of his remarks is apparently unknown.
“We’re not sure how it’s going to play out exactly – it’s the first time we’re doing it,” Ms. Badger told the Mountain News.
Her remarks were echoed by Washington State Patrol communications official Bob Caulkins, who also said he was concerned that un-informed residents may not know that the alert is just a test and not an actual emergency – and panic – or simply call 911 looking for information about what is happening.
“Please do not call 911 seeking information,” Caulkins pleaded. “You never know when somebody has a real emergency and needs to get through. We don’t want the lines tied up with people just asking questions.”
Caulkins said that often in times of emergencies, such as storms or power outages, people call 911 looking for information and not to report an emergency.
As a result, the Washington State Patrol has issued a press release about Wednesday’s test, and we reprint it here in full:
NAT’L TEST OF EMERGENCY ALERT SYSTEM COULD STRESS 9-1-1 SYSTEMS
WSP Asks: Please Don’t Call 9-1-1 to Ask About Test
(Olympia)—The Washington State Patrol is reminding everyone that tomorrow’s national test of the Emergency Alert System (EAS) is just that: a test.
This is the first time there has been a nationwide test of EAS, and there is concern that it could trigger calls to 9-1-1 from people unfamiliar with the process.
“We think a national test is a great idea, and probably overdue,” said Mark Layhew, director of the State Patrol’s Communications Division. “But we don’t want people wondering about it and calling 9-1-1 for information.”
Layhew stressed that people should only call 9-1-1 when they need police, fire or medical help in response to an incident.
“People should never call 9-1-1 to ask about power outages, road blockages or in this case, tests of a national warning system,” Layhew said.
The test will happen tomorrow (Wednesday) at 11:00 a.m. Pacific Standard Time. It will be similar to the regular weekly and monthly tests done by broadcasters, but will originate with the federal government.
During the test, no matter where citizens tune their radio or television (broadcast, cable or satellite), people will hear the same EAS tones and message. The test is anticipated to last about 30 seconds.
No action by citizens is required in response to the test.
State Patrol dispatchers will not spend a lot of time on the phone with callers who are inquiring about the test. They have been instructed to quickly end those calls.
“We never know what the next phone call will bring. It could be a real emergency that needs our attention,” Layhew said.
For more information on tomorrow’s EAS Test go to: http://transition.fcc.gov/cgb/consumerfacts/eas.pdf