Thursday, November 10, 2011

Had This Been a Real Emergency...

...you would have been instructed to bend over and kiss your tush goodbye!



Did you happen to catch the first nationwide, top down test of the Emergency Broadcast System? It was, shall we say, underwhelming. It started out with the familiar tones of local EBS alerts and then immediately went into the crapper. The voiceover was weak and garbled and largely unintelligible. In many ways, mimicking the Obama administration.

Today, at 2 p.m. ET the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Communications Commission held its first nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System.

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 funny thing about this, if our inability to inform the nation of a national disaster is funny, is how long the Obama administration has been preparing for this moment: five months.

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.


So, with five whole months to get ready, the experiment falls flat on its face? Expand that to three years and again, it resembles the Obama presidency.

And the bit about Lady Gaga? I thought the point was to warn of impending disasters, not showcase them!

Update: Chris Wysocki has the latest EBS Adventure in Incompetence here.

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