FEMA Says Alert System Test Yielded Positive, Unexpected Results

By Carlton Purvis


“The audio quality throughout the test was sporadic and in some cased didn’t exist at all… A large part of the problem was some feedback that we got back from one of the primary entry point stations. Their encoder decoder had a malfunction and it actually started rebroadcasting the message back up that line that it received the message. That made the entire message everyone else received down line of that to be garbled,” Penn said. “We also had some points where we didn’t receive a message at all…We need to work to find out what the causes of that were.”

Broadcasters have up to 45 days to turn in their reports, so there is still a lot of information that hasn’t been analyzed yet.

Penn also expressed concerns for reaching members of the public with disabilities.

“The beauty of EAS is its simplicity and its biggest drawback is it simplicity,” Penn said. The scrolling text feature is meant to be a general alert that there is a problem and that viewers or listeners should tune into their local authorities to get information.

“But the audio is where the President actually conveys his message…We need to do a much better job at what we use as a scroll...An important focus is making the EAS fully accessible. We are working closely with the disability community to accomplish this goal."

Roberto Baldwin at Gizmodo wrote that emergency alert systems are worthless without social networks in a blog post advocating for adding a social media element to the emergency alert system.

“At 2pm EST most of us will be at work, without access to radio or TV. What we will be checking constantly? The Internet. Facebook, Twitter, Google. Which is why if this system is going to have any teeth, the FCC needs to implement a system that alerts the nation via their social networks,” he wrote. FEMA says it's working toward that goal.


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