New England is coming off of its first major snowstorm. Just as most homeowners in the region are getting their electricity restored, their heat, phone service and, for some, their well water back, they will receive an Emergency Alert System message on their radio and TV today — but it is only a test.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy reminds residents that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will conduct the first nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System (EAS) on Wednesday, Nov. 9, at 2 p.m.
David York, Emergency Management director for the town of Monroe, reflected on how his town had sent out Code Red emergency notifications to its residents on a daily basis last week.
"I think we've been over notifed in a sense," York said Wednesday of how people must feel with all the town has gone through over the past week.
While he acknowleged that the date for the national test falls on an ironic time for New England, York said if it had been scheduled on a different date it could have been after a tornado hit Kansas.
York said the EOS has been used by individual states during times of crisis, but never for a national emergency.
"This is a system that has been in place. Each state has tested it," he said. "Everyone is getting excited about it. It's a two or three minute test on the radio. It's been in place, but this is the very first national test."
What is the EAS?
The EAS is a national alert and warning system established to enable the President of the United States to address the American public during emergencies. The National Weather Service, governors and state and local emergency authorities can also use parts of the system to issue more localized emergency alerts, according to a press release issued by Malloy's office.
"This nationwide test will enable us to determine the reliability of the system and its effectiveness in notifying the public of emergencies and potential dangers nationally and regionally," Malloy explained.
"This event also serves as a reminder that all individuals, families and businesses should establish an emergency preparedness kit and emergency plan," he added. "Personal preparedness is essential to our resiliency to any emergency."
Similar to statewide EAS tests that are conducted frequently, the nationwide test will involve broadcast radio and television stations, cable television, satellite radio and television services and wireline video service providers across all states and the territories of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and American Samoa.
On Wednesday, the public will hear a message indicating, "This is a test."
The audio message will be the same for both radio and television. Under the FCC's rules, radio and television broadcasters, cable operators, satellite digital audio radio service providers, direct broadcast satellite service providers and wireline video service providers are required to receive and transmit presidential EAS messages to the public. The test is expected to last approximately 30-60 seconds.
Just an Intermission
York said some people in his town thought the test would be accompanied by a drill and would disrupt Monroe's first responders, but he added none of that is the case.
"I think the townspeople have been confused by some of the information," he said. "It's not going to disrupt anything. There is no drill other than what's done on radio and TV and through the media."
York added, "This is just an intermission and life will go on as is with little or no interruption. There should be a national capability. That's why they're testing. Better to test when you don't need it than when you do need it."