Home > government > So the Emergency Alert System Test Failed, or Did It?

So the Emergency Alert System Test Failed, or Did It?

Thursday, November 10, 2011, 13:29 EDT Leave a comment Go to comments

Yesterday afternoon’s scheduled nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System (which in my youth was called the Emergency Broadcast System, back when all TV and radio transmission was via the airwaves) didn’t quite go as hoped, according to ABC News.

While many viewers and listeners experienced the test without a hitch, as soon as 2 p.m. ET hit there were reports of problems in cities across the country. Some people never saw an alert, others said the audio was distorted and there were even claims that Lady Gaga’s song “Paparazzi” was playing instead of the correct audio.

On KABC-TV in Los Angeles, a screen flashed with the EAS graphic for several minutes, but there was no audio or information given. Shortly after the EAS alert failed, KABC ran the alert in full with the audio.

The alert was supposed to run for about 30 seconds. However, for many stations it lasted much longer.

In Washington, D.C., WJLA-TV was stuck on the EAS slate for four minutes and WMAL-FM had dead air for nearly two minutes before the test finally ran. Once the test started, the audio was garbled.

The list of problems continues in the article. I heard the test on WSRS-FM, which was playing on my co-worker’s radio. The test message was audible but garbled. I am thankful that we didn’t get Lady Gaga.

Commenters on the ABC web site have not been kind with their assessment of the test, with most ridiculing it as yet another government screw-up. A few have been more understanding, which is the way I look at it.

The purpose of testing something is not to have a perfect test. The purpose is to find out if the thing being tested is working or not. In this case, the test revealed many problems that weren’t apparent before. Now officials can go about fixing the problems. If the test had never run, no one would know what had to be fixed. Now, they do. By that standard, the test was a success.

I’m the first person to complain about government ineptitude. But in this case, criticism is misguided. The test did its job, and now the people who administer the Emergency Alert System can do theirs. Let’s all shut up and let them.

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