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Emergency Alert System Test, November 9, 2011
has been a test of the Emergency Broadcast System. Had this been an actual emergency, you would have been
instructed where to go in your area for additional instructions." Do you remember back when you would be watching
All in the Family and suddenly a shrill tone constituted of a combination of 853 and 960 Hz sinewaves would
blast through the television's speakers, accompanied by these bars flashed onto the screen? It was implemented in
1963 as a means of alerting citizens to current or potential critical events like a pack of Ruskie ICBMs flying
over the North Pole, an invasion force landing on American shores, or a mile-wide tornado ripping a path through
Badlands of South Dakota. "The
Emergency Broadcast System was established to provide the President of the United States with an expeditious
method of communicating with the American public in the event of war, threat of war, or grave national crisis," so
goes the official line. The EBS, successor to
CONELRAD, could be
used for national or local emergencies. Radio and TV stations were required to broadcast the test at least once
per week. When an actual emergency did occur, a teletype message was sent to affected areas that was specially
coded to trip an audible alarm in the studios. Broadcasters then initiated a procedure to interrupt the current
show, play the announcement, and resume the regularly scheduled show or follow the announcement with a special
The EBS was replaced in 1994 by the Emergency Alert System (EAS), which we still have today.
Transmittal of notices have been updated over time, but until now, handing over control of the airwaves has been
done locally by the operators. Television and radio broadcasters, satellite radio and satellite television
providers, as well as cable television and wireline video providers all now are required to participate in the
system. On Wednesday, November 9, 2011, the first nation-wide, top-to-bottom test of the
Emergent Alert System will be conducted beginning at 2:00 pm Eastern time. While state and local EAS
announcements are limited to two minutes, national alerts have no limit. This test is expected to last for three
minutes. After FEMA initiates the alert to Primary Entry Point (PEP) stations, messages will flow outward and
downward until every station has received it. Every station is required to report back with the success - or lack
thereof - of the test.
"At the Federal Communications Commission's June 9, 2011 Agenda meeting, Public Safety and Homeland Security
Bureau Chief Jamie Barnett, joined by representatives from FEMA and the National Weather Service, announced that
the first nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System (EAS) would take place at 2:00 PM (Eastern Standard Time)
on November 9, 2011. The purpose of the test is to assess the reliability and effectiveness of the EAS as a public
alert mechanism. EAS Participants currently participate in state-level monthly tests and local-level weekly tests,
but no top-down review of the entire system has ever been undertaken. The Commission, along with the Federal
Emergency Management Agency, will use the results of this nationwide test to assess the reliability and
effectiveness of the EAS as a public alert mechanism, and will work together with EAS stakeholders to make
improvements to the system as appropriate."
As with many of these kinds of big government programs, they appear on the surface to be reasonable and
intended only for the well-being of the citizens. If implemented and conducted in the manner presented to the
citizens, then I would have few problems with them. Experience and reality demands a cautious scrutiny of the
long-term ramifications of those programs. What begins as a good will "we only want to help you" policy ends up
being a nightmare. Consider the overarching monster TSA has grown into, with plans now to set up random roadside
checkpoints along highways (VIPR
program). The end result is almost always loss of a little more freedom, and abuse by bureaucrats.
scenario and the timing of this EAS exercise seems more like a demonstration of the President's power to control
communications than like a simple test. Otherwise, the "test" could be carried out in the middle of the night when
it would only affect security guards and insomniacs. In the planned manner, the interruption is very noticeable to
everyone who is normally tuned in to most live media venues. We now have presidential edicts issued on a regular
basis with the expressed intent of bypassing Congress and a passive (although Constitutionally a co-equal branch
of government) Supreme Court. It's the new "We Can't Wait" philosophy. We have heard from senators who want to
prevent broadcasts opposing their opinions from being allowed to be communicated. If this makes your
tingle, it is probably the Orwellian aspect of it
all. At the discretion of the President or one of his appointees (current and future), every broadcast, or
selective broadcasts, can be usurped at the whim of the Federal Government .
If you have been considering
getting a Ham license but put off doing so, now might be a good time to get it. At least for now there is no
requirement (that we know about) for radio manufacturers to include an inhibit function that can be commanded by a
national broadcast signal (maybe like the LF one generated for time keeping). You might want a tube set.
The importance of communication by wire and radio in time of national emergency is emphasized in the
Communications Act. Among the stated purposes of that statute is centralized regulation by the Federal
Communications Commission in the interests of the national defense as well as to promote safety of life and
property in general. The act also gives the President special emergency powers over electrical communication and
radiation to further safeguard the Nation's defense and security during war or threat of war.
developments since World War II have made it necessary to prepare for the control of radiating devices in addition
to regular communication facilities in any emergency. This is necessary because certain equipment, though not used
for communication purposes, can send out emissions which could be used as a "beam" to guide hostile aircraft,
submarines, and radio-controlled missiles. It was at the request of the Department of Defense that the Commission
several years ago initiated a program for regulating electromagnetic radiation in the defense effort. In 1951
Congress gave the President additional emergency authority to deal with these radiations as a defense measure. The
Chief Executive subsequently empowered the Federal Communications Commission to draft and enforce regulations in
that connection. The text of this legislation and the related Executive Order were published in the Commission's
previous annual report.
These additional delegated powers are being used by the Commission to carry out the so-called CONELRAD project
for emergency and temporary control. The first step was effecting a plan of procedure to be followed by broadcast
stations. during armed attack. This was announced by the White House on December 2, 1952, in 'the following
statement: The White House today announced a plan whereby standard radio broadcast stations may remain on the air
immediately before and during air attack, while simultaneously minimizing the use of radio as a navigational aid
to hostile aircraft.
No engineering method has yet been found to enable FM and TV stations to remain on the air.
called CONELRAD (Plan for the CONtrol of ELectromagnetic RADiation), is expected to be placed in operation in
three months. Under present temporary arrangements, a detected air attack would have the immediate effect of
silencing all broadcasting and telecasting until the attack or threat is ended.
This special system of
emergency broadcasting, to be administered by the Federal Communications Commission, represents many months of
close cooperation by the broadcasting industry with the Government. Although no station is required to remain on
the air in this plan, to date more than 1,000 privately owned standard broadcast stations have volunteered to
participate in CONELRAD and have spent approximately $1,500.000 of their own funds to make equipment changes
necessary to operate in this new system.
The plan was developed on the basis of Executive Order No. 10312
(December 10. 1951) whereby the President authorized the Federal Communications Commission either to silence radio
stations or to control their operations so that electromagnetic radiations may not aid the navigation of hostile
aircraft, guided missiles and other devices of similar purpose. CONELRAD will be invoked upon announcement of an
air raid alert by the Air Defense Command, USAF. All standard broadcast stations In the CONELRAD system will
switch to one of two pre-designated frequencies (640 kc. or 1240 kc.) and broadcast to the public a continuous
flow of accurate, official information, news and civil defense instructions.
On April 10, 1953, the
Commission released the proposed CONELRAD rules and covering manual for broadcast station operation in an
emergency. The rules became effective May 15 thereafter. More than 1,500 individual broadcast stations are now
participating. CONELRAD plans for other radio services are being evolved and will be announced as quickly as each
one is completed. The next such plan will be for the Amateur Radio Service.
Her is a TIME magazine
CONELRAD from 1963.
Posted on 10/27/2011
These items are an archive of past Topical Smorgasbord items that have appeared on the RF Cafe homepage. In keeping with the "cafe"
genre, these tidbits of information are truly a smorgasbord of topics. They all pertain to topics that are related to the general engineering
and science theme of RF Cafe. Note: There is also a huge collection of my 'Factoids' (aka 'Kirt's Cogitations') that might interest you as well.