Skip to main content

Mixed Signals

At least in Washington, the FCC’s coordinated national test of the Emergency Alert System at 2 p.m. Wednesday seemed to be all over the map.

Of course, the test was an effort to reveal any issues, and it may have.

Unless I had my mute button on, I did not hear the tone when I tuned to the test on one channel. And the alert had must have already ended on WRC, though one viewer said they had seen a crawl but got no onscreen graphic, while on another channel it was still going on (WTTG), while on yet a third (WJLA), it seemed to go on for close to the three minutes initially planned by the FCC, but later adjusted to 30 seconds. Yet another viewer said they thought the WJLA test had only lasted 30 seconds after all.

The National Cable & Telecommunications Association and AT&T had both warned the FCC that there might be some issues with the test, which NCTA had asked be postponed. NCTA said Wednesday it did not have any results, but reminded reporters that it had sent a letter to FEMA, which partnered with the FCC on the test, requesting the delay and pointing to the potential problems.

“We are in the process of gathering feedback from our member companies about today’s first-ever test of the national Emergency Alert System (EAS),” said NCTA in a statement. “We do know that in many places, the Emergency Alert Notification flowed through to viewers without a hitch. However, we also know that in some places, it did not.

“Today’s test was designed specifically to identify the gaps among all EAS participants that exist in the current alert system. In the coming days and weeks, we’ll continue to work closely with FEMA and the FCC so that we can collectively identify the specific cable industry gaps and determine how they can be addressed in the future. And we remain committed to implementing the next generation alert system which will be deployed by all EAS participants by June 2012.”

An FCC spokesman was not available for comment on what the FCC had learned from the first national test of the system.

“Our initial feedback is that most radio and television stations ran the Nationwide EAS test successfully although some isolated glitches may have occurred, said the National Association of Broadcasters in a statement. “We look forward to continuing to work with our federal partners to diagnose and improve the EAS system.”