Nov. 9 Nationwide EAS Test Shortened to 30 Seconds
WASHINGTON: The Federal Emergency Management Agency today
notified participants in the upcoming nationwide test of the Emergency Alert
System that it will run just 30 seconds rather than two-and-a-half minutes as originally
The test, scheduled for Nov. 9 at 2 p.m. Eastern, will be the first official
test of a Presidential Emergency Action Notification. All broadcast radio and
TV stations must take part in the tests along with participating cable and
satellite operators. The national alert system relies on a daisy-chain
architecture whereby the EAN is transmitted to designated radio stations that
are monitored by State Primaries, which in turn retransmit the alert to Local
Primaries that notify all other broadcast and cable participants. The United
States is divided into 550 local EAS areas, each with at least two Local
Primaries monitoring two sources for presidential alerts. A single failure
within the system can leave hundreds of participants out of the loop.
A limited-area test of the system was conducted in 2010 across Alaska,
revealing several equipment and communications failures. The Nov. 9 test was
originally scheduled after a deadline for the implementation of the new Common
Alerting Protocol, or CAP, an XML-based data exchange format allowing alerts to
be broadcast simultaneously over multiple types of systems, eliminating the
daisy chain. Broadcasters were supposed to be CAP-compliant in September, but
due to the timing of equipment coming to market among other factors, the
deadline was moved to next June.
The absence of CAP in the nationwide Nov. 9 test caused concern for the cable
industry because many systems won’t be able to run a text crawl identifying the
alert as a test. National Cable and Telecommunications Association chief
Michael Powell wrote to FEMA administrator Craig Fugate in mid-October asking
for a postponement of the test so as not to incite panic among deaf and
hard-of-hearing cable subscribers.
FEMA confirmed the shortening of the Nov. 9 test, but did not say specifically if
the agency did so to reduce the chance of an unintended reenactment of “War of
the Worlds.” The change was said to be made at the direction of Secretary of
Homeland Security Janet Napolitano.
~ Deborah D. McAdams