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Science and the Environment

Broadcasters and Federal Government Prepare for National Emergency Alert System (EAS) Test

Information on the National EAS Test.

Information on preparedness from FEMA.

Many people in the Ozarks are familiar with the sound of the Emergency Alert System or EAS. Radio and TV stations test the EAS on a regular basis and broadcast those alert tones to let the public know when severe weather is imminent. However, this week’s EAS test is different because it’s testing the national alert system. Josh DeBerge is a spokesman for FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“It’s a warning system that can be activated by the president when he or she deems it necessary to provide information to the American public on an event of national significance. I think we saw a lot of focus transition back to national preparedness after 9/11. Obviously, with the threat of terrorism and natural events that could impact the entire country, that stresses the importance of making sure this national system is functional.”

This is the first test of the national system, which has never been activated. Deberge says in addition to simply seeing if the system works, FEMA sees this as the first step toward upgrading the system to take advantage of technology.

“This isn’t a pass/fail test. What we are trying to do though is look at, across the nation, where there are problems and what those problems were. As we try to modernize the system, you can’t do that without finding where the problems exist now. So, following this, there will be a review of how the test went from the local level to the national level. It’s an opportunity for broadcasters across the country to examine their own systems and from a federal perspective, we can figure out any problems that exist in the chain.”

                The Springfield-Greene County Office of Emergency Management does not have an active role in the test, though Director Ryan Nichols says his staff will monitor the test and be available to answer any questions the public might have. Both Nichols and Deberge say this is a good opportunity for individuals and businesses to review their own preparedness for a disaster.