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FEMA, FCC Hope To Forestall Panic Over National Emergency Alert

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the awaiting-dhs-kickbacks dept.

Communications 210

Ars Technica has a piece on the "first-ever nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System (EAS)," slated for this Wednesday at 2 p.m. EST. An excerpt: "This national system will look and sound much like the current (and local) emergency warnings often seen on TV or heard on radio, but the scope is larger and it can be put under the direct control of the President. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and the National Weather Service (NWS) will all coordinate the test, but it's FEMA that actually transmits the alert code. Concerned that such a test might alarm people, the agencies are going to extraordinary lengths to provide a heads-up. I first heard about the test in an e-mail newsletter from my city government, which told residents last week, 'Do not be alarmed when an emergency message will take over the airways... this is only a test.' The test will display a warning message on TV screens, though as my city helpfully noted, 'Due to some technical limitations, a visual message indicating that "this is a test" may not pop up on every TV channel, especially where people use cable to receive their television stations.'"

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210 comments

In other words... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37972102)

This will be the typical gubmint clusterfuck.

Re:In other words... (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 2 years ago | (#37972518)

This will be the typical gubmint clusterfuck.

No, this will be the perfect terrorist opportunity.

It's bad enough when a fire alarm goes on, most people just stand around and look at each other and go "is this a drill?" Now replace that scenario with a real emergency alert at around the same time as the test. "Oh, ignore it, it's just a drill, remember?"

Deus Ex (1)

mike.rimov (1148959) | more than 2 years ago | (#37972114)

Hmmm... maybe the first Deus Ex was right.... FEMA was just the first layer of that conspiracy... now they're taking over the airwaves. :-)

Almost care (1)

IronSight (1925612) | more than 2 years ago | (#37972126)

I mean I would if they didn't decide to switch to all digital which for some reason doesn't seem to get to my tv since there are no tv stations close enough to get solid signal... Perhaps my weather radio will go off?

Re:Almost care (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 2 years ago | (#37972424)

So if they didn't switch to all digital, and so couldn't broadcast on any TV stations since the stations are now all digital, you couldn't receive it from any station near or far, you would care?

TV? Radio? Huh? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37972128)

This is the Internet age. I have no TV or Radio service. How would I be alerted? Will they splash up an ad online Slashdot, that happens to bypass adblockers?

Re:TV? Radio? Huh? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37972202)

You just read about it, right?

Re:TV? Radio? Huh? (1)

iamhassi (659463) | more than 2 years ago | (#37972276)

You'd think they'd contact AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint to make sure an alert like this went to all US cellphones. AT&T has 107 million US customers [wikipedia.org] and Verizon has another 107 million [wikipedia.org] so combined that covers 2/3rds of all Americans [census.gov]

Facebook would be another one I'd contact to see if an alert system could be put in place.

Re:TV? Radio? Huh? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37972322)

Actually a cell phone based emergency alert system is in the works. There has already been grumbling by some of the tin foil hat crowd b/c the phones require a software mod that overides text settings to force everyone to receive the EAS text message. R911 systems are only effective if people have registered their cell phone number-which I'm guessing most people have not.

Re:TV? Radio? Huh? (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 2 years ago | (#37972344)

I'd still be out of luck. I watch about 1 hour combined TV/Radio a day. I don't own a cell phone, and don't have a facebook account.

Re:TV? Radio? Huh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37972490)

I'm sure your parents will come downstairs and warn you.

Re:TV? Radio? Huh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37973006)

Darwin at work. Good luck to you.

Re:TV? Radio? Huh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37972310)

I think what is even more interesting is that they supposedly went to "extraordinary lengths" to provide a heads up. I have (and use) TV and radio and this is the first I have heard of it. That doesn't sound like extraordinary lengths to me. I watched an NFL football game on Sunday on TV and never saw anything about this. It seems like they could have made some sort of an effort to let us know.

There will be a broarcast message from GMs in WOW (1)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 2 years ago | (#37972692)

so I am sure you will be covered.

If this were an actual emergency most slashdot subscribers would survive just fine being that the basement is a safe place to be. Please note, your mom may stop bringing you meals which means you might have to go upstairs to witness the disaster

perfect time for attack! (2)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 2 years ago | (#37972130)

perfect time for my invasion fleet to make their move!
COBRA! COBRA! COBRA! COBRA!

How effective? (2)

swarm (71375) | more than 2 years ago | (#37972140)

Who is watching TV and listening to the radio these days?
How will the system reach those of us that get 90% of our content online?
I guess it would work during a sporting event, but what about the rest of the time?

Re:How effective? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37972190)

This is why they're testing it. If its reach is that limited, this is how they'll find out and make changes.

Re:How effective? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37972252)

And how will they know? TV and radio are push media. It's not like they have any way of telling how many sets picked up the signal, or how many would have picked it up if they had broadcast it at a time of day when anyone other than old people and unemployed students were at home!

Re:How effective? (1)

X0563511 (793323) | more than 2 years ago | (#37972922)

I'm sure they've figured out some way. It's not like they could just observe people during the test, and monitor social media and such...

Re:How effective? (4, Insightful)

kannibal_klown (531544) | more than 2 years ago | (#37972218)

Who is watching TV and listening to the radio these days?
How will the system reach those of us that get 90% of our content online?
I guess it would work during a sporting event, but what about the rest of the time?

Actually, a large percentage of people still watch TV now-a-days. Just because a larger percentage of SLASHDOT has moved off TV and onto Hulu+Netflex+Torrents+Whatever doesn't translate very well to Joe Sixpack that just wants to watch a few shows in the evening or the occasional Football / Baseball game.

Granted, at 2PM most people would be at work where they won't have access to TV and as much radio but a lot of people (including the elderly and unemployed) will be watching.

Re:How effective? (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#37972836)

Actually, a large percentage of people still watch TV now-a-days. Just because a larger percentage of SLASHDOT has moved off TV and onto Hulu+Netflex+Torrents+Whatever doesn't translate very well to Joe Sixpack

The live TV viewers are poor people. Watch the commercials for once instead of DVR FF, netflixing the whole series at once, downloading the torrent, or mythtv auto-skipping the entire break. The commercials are all for criminal defense lawyers, scam schools (become a highly paid video game programmer in two months!), used car dealers, scammy loan operations like auto title loans and strange mortgage offers, bankruptcy laywers... There are not many TV commercials for /.ers like AMD CPUs or heatsink paste.

Now who is going to logically think things thru and not panic, the average /.er or some poor person who watches too much FOX news and CSI?

Re:How effective? (1)

mjr167 (2477430) | more than 2 years ago | (#37973034)

What kind of TV do you watch? Perhaps you should try watching something other than the latest reality tv show if you want good commercials. Here's a hint: different channels target different audiences.

Re:How effective? (1)

Lakitu (136170) | more than 2 years ago | (#37972524)

you're asking how you will get info on the internet?

If TV and radio were not "dumb", one-way media, and worked like the internet to begin with, then this would not even be an issue. With full internet-capable devices, you can request your own information on your own schedule, and not rely on an entertainment-focused pre-scheduled TV channel or radio station to interrupt their broadcasts.

Re:How effective? (2)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 2 years ago | (#37972854)

Umm, no. This works precisely because TV and radio are push media. If there is an emergency, it is easy to push emergency broadcast information to everyone. The web is a pull medium, meaning that you can't get any information unless you know to look for it. They can't just inject 'aliens are invading, please go to your local soylent green factory immediately' into every HTTP request.

Re:How effective? (1)

X0563511 (793323) | more than 2 years ago | (#37972938)

Well, they COULD. This would require some cooperation on part of the server operators, however.

Re:How effective? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37972762)

if i remember my networking classes correctly in the Internet protocol there was originally a broadcasts protocal that would send something to every computer on the net but it is blocked by pretty much all computers, while i have always wanted to track it down and try the default root passwords for all major linux/unix distros pluse and see how many computers i could turn off, i think if the government really wanted to they could institute some thing with this.

Re:How effective? (0)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 2 years ago | (#37972880)

IP does have a broadcast address. Packets sent to 255.255.255.255 would, in theory, be sent to every machine on the Internet. Routers block them because it would be make a DoS on the entire Internet trivial if it were routable, although you can typically use the broadcast address on the local subnet (e.g. 123.123.123.255). Broadcasting a packet to every machine wouldn't do you any good though, they'd need something to receive it. What do you have running on your computer that will listen for UDP packets (it's broadcast, so it can't be TCP, because that requires replies) and notifies the user when one is received?

10 bits worth (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37972154)

mov 101 1011
jp -1

Isn't this self-fulfilling? (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#37972158)

Wouldn't an 'emergency broadcast' that interferes with America's God-given right to television constitute, in itself, an national emergency?

Monitoring all transmissions (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37972160)

I imagine that anybody with the specialized equipment will be analyzing the transmissions to identifiy specific frequencies and or protocols used to control the broadcast system.

Re:Monitoring all transmissions (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37972300)

As someone who has maintained EAS hardware for a broadcast station, the protocols are all simple and published information, and FEMA/state emergency management departments will give you the information on where that data is flowing. Anyone who wants to know, knows.

media choice (3, Insightful)

mapkinase (958129) | more than 2 years ago | (#37972168)

TV and radio? That's it? I do not have it at home and the radio channels in my car are unworthy.

I am already subscribed to a bunch of alerts from my county (text, email notifications) and it works already just fine.

Given that I am spending about 1 hour every day in my car, 8 hours at work (email access), and the rest at home (6 hours sleep - no access to email, texts + access to email and text for the rest of the home time), I would prefer text messages as the basic alert media. With the noted exceptions I always have access to my phone, so I would prefer "text" as a media.

I could not find any comparison in numbers between TV subscriptions and cell phones, but I suspect that more people nowadays have access to text messaging.

Another thing is that TV should be on when the emergency broadcast happens.

From the other hand, cell phones are more easily disrupted (voice, don't remember the anekdotes on messaging) during emergency situations...

Re:media choice (4, Interesting)

grumling (94709) | more than 2 years ago | (#37972240)

In a real emergency, you'll likely get a reverse 911 call if there's time.

However, as part of an emergency kit you should have some sort of battery powered mass communications device on hand. The EAS isn't just that 10 second alert. If an event is triggered there are designated "tune-to" channels on cable systems and radio bands that can be used to get information out about things like shelters and storm tracks.

If they are actually used or not is another matter entirely.

Re:media choice (1)

Phrogman (80473) | more than 2 years ago | (#37972246)

I have a cell phone. I leave it turned off unless I need to make a call. I only have it because I need to have it for work, otherwise I would likely not have a cellphone at all. Text messages might reach a lot of the current always-staring-at-their-cellphone generation but by no means is it a better means of advertising a warning. It could be added to the list of ways to reach people I suppose but given the fact that SOMEONE out there would then want to spoof it immediately I am not sure that's a good idea either.

authenticity (1)

SgtChaireBourne (457691) | more than 2 years ago | (#37972290)

I would prefer text messages as the basic alert media. With the noted exceptions I always have access to my phone, so I would prefer "text" as a media.

How would you know the message is authentic?

Re:authenticity (1)

OzPeter (195038) | more than 2 years ago | (#37972326)

I would prefer text messages as the basic alert media. With the noted exceptions I always have access to my phone, so I would prefer "text" as a media.

How would you know the message is authentic?

Text message delivery is not guaranteed to be immediate, so how do you know the message is timely?
 
Or better yet, you finally turn on your cell phone and get inundated with a zillion alert text messages which gives you the impression that the zombie apocalypse has already started and you'd better start shooting your neighbors - as after all, they are all walking around as if there is no emergency what so ever.

Re:authenticity (1)

X0563511 (793323) | more than 2 years ago | (#37972988)

That's not difficult. Whomever sends the message just needs to include a timestamp in the message itself.

Re:authenticity (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#37972894)

I would prefer text messages as the basic alert media. With the noted exceptions I always have access to my phone, so I would prefer "text" as a media.

How would you know the message is authentic?

If its a text, it is not authentic unless you're within a very small restricted age range that uses texts constantly.

I would assume any "attention grabbing" text is just spam. "Zombie apocalypse reported downtown... please email zombie@ripoffonlinephamacy.com for details"

Just like the QR code fad. I'm not interested in QR codes because I know from history that within a year, 90% of public QR codes are going to be hacked URLs pointing to goatse or some virus delivery payload website that will add another toolbar and tracking virus to my machine or at absolute best, a rickroll. I'm surprised people aren't doing this already, placing new stickers with "enhanced" QR codes on top of existing QR code marketing materials.

Re:authenticity (1)

mapkinase (958129) | more than 2 years ago | (#37973054)

Any sci-fi fan would tell you that this problem exists on the radio as well (famously popped up 75 years ago) :-)

I am not taking your question seriously because I do not take a problem of text message pranks seriously.

Re:media choice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37972452)

I think it would be an extremely entertaining event to do it via text messages. We'd get to watch Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc. literally explode with outrage at how "the government sent me a text that I HAVE TO PAY for". Hell, even it it was prefixed by the standard "free text from (insert carrier)" that billing text messages have, they'd complain that the government was using up their battery or some other ridiculous thing. I can see it now:

"FREE TEXT from FEMA: This is a test, LOL. OMFG if this wuz a reel em3rgency yewd have seen it on teh twitter an hour ago. LMAO K THX"

Re:media choice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37973124)

Cell phone alerts would be sent via the Cell Broadcast System. Since that's broadcast, it's far less sensitive to overload, and it's probably prioritized at network level anyway (emergency announcments are the main use of CBS).

It's up your phone to do something with it, though. Apparently the iPhone doesn't support CBS (not sure about the 4S yet).

the real coup (2)

RecycledElectrons (695206) | more than 2 years ago | (#37972178)

The real story here is that Fed.Gov can take over control of any media outlet without the consent of the media outlet.

Controlling the media is 90% of any coup...so who else is thinking of skipping an occupy rally today to hack this system?

Re:the real coup (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37972222)

They can already listen in to every phone call you make and read your email but the fact they can interrupt infommercials worries you?

Re:the real coup (4, Informative)

grumling (94709) | more than 2 years ago | (#37972260)

That pesky Communications act of 1934 (amended every congressional session since) specifically states that the airwaves belong to the people, and the people have designated the FCC as the trustee of the airwaves. By getting a license you grant consent.

The Cable act of 1992 brings cable TV under the umbrella of the FCC as well. Satellite TV, being delivered over the air, falls under the 1934 rule.

Re:the real coup (3, Interesting)

surgen (1145449) | more than 2 years ago | (#37972420)

The real story here is that Fed.Gov can take over control of any media outlet without the consent of the media outlet.

No. That is not the story; those are paranoid delusions. Each broadcast station operates their EAS hardware. It can be overridden in many ways, from changing the control setting from "automatically forward messages" to "wait for my cue before forwarding" all the way to removing the electric relay that allows the encoder to inject between the program signal and transmitter.

If we're ever in enough trouble where EAS is used to "take over a media outlet", there will be enough problems going on that no broadcaster will give two shits about the FCC ramifications of not forwarding EAS messages (which are currently pretty weak anyway and not enforced anyway).

Re:the real coup (2)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 2 years ago | (#37972484)

Yes, and in an emergency that control is necessary. Especially if the media outlet wouldn't voluntarily cooperate. The media resistance is the coup; the government is already the government.

If the emergency didn't warrant the government control, the media outlets could and would immediately sue the government. If the legal system were changed by the emergency response, the media outlets would continue to resist in ways that would be more powerful that the government, unless the people went along with the government.

But all this is moot. For a decade the government has been operating without regard to law or our rights, under cover of the "Global War on Terror" or whatever they call it this year. The real story is that the media outlets covering 99%+ of the audience are part of the "coup" that daily damages our rights, and robs and kills us with our rights abandoned.

Did you do anything about it while Bush/Cheney set it up and screwed us for 7 years with it?

Re:the real coup (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#37972930)

Yes, and in an emergency that control is necessary. Especially if the media outlet wouldn't voluntarily cooperate. The media resistance is the coup; the government is already the government.

If five corporations own most of the media, and coincidentally, a handful of big corporations also own all the elected officials, I'm not seeing how, or why, the corporations would fight internally. Sure they do stupid stuff like all interdepartmental squabbles, and they put on an antisocial show occasionally, but I'm not seeing why any serious disagreement would/could happen.

Re:the real coup (3, Insightful)

Lakitu (136170) | more than 2 years ago | (#37972606)

if this is really your concern, then you should not be worried about the FCC, which is decently well-regulated and has visible ties to Congress, or Emergency Alert System, which is a program of cooperation between major media providers in TV and radio and the government.

What you should worry about is all of the extra-judicial cooperation between corporations and the government, with many of them not even questioning government requests even when the government requests have essentially zero legal standing. Ask a cop you know how easy it is for him to get location information from a cell phone provider, for example, without much hassle.

Many of these types of corporations lay down and roll over at the thought of any law enforcement request, partly because they are making major profits off of the cronyism tendencies of present day America, and partly because they were bullied into giving up information without question by government administrations over the last 10 years.

if the official, regulated agency administering very little control over media and the airwaves scare you, then you'll be shocked to find out what the unofficial, unregulated relationships are like.

well, it IS a "test" (1)

argStyopa (232550) | more than 2 years ago | (#37972220)

"'Due to some technical limitations, a visual message indicating that "this is a test" may not pop up on every TV channel, especially where people use cable to receive their television stations.'"

So can we say in advance that that aspect of the test quite clearly FAILS? /facepalm

Re:well, it IS a "test" (1)

gbjbaanb (229885) | more than 2 years ago | (#37972508)

lets just hope that the visual message indicating that "this is NOT a test" will pop up when needed!

Re:well, it IS a "test" (1)

surgen (1145449) | more than 2 years ago | (#37972690)

So can we say in advance that that aspect of the test quite clearly FAILS? /facepalm

Not really.

This test probably just focuses on FEMAs ability to get the message to the PEP (Primary Entry Points) for the EAS network, not the end broadcaster to properly transmit, or even receive from the PEP (thats what weekly tests are for). And once the message gets to the PEP, its going to look an awful lot like every other EAS test anyway.

Its not like its TV stations are going to pop up messages saying "ALERT! EMERGENCY! OH MY GOD! EVERYTHINGS OVER!" with no additional information. Its going to be like the EAS test that happens every single week. Not overriding video is IIRC tolerable under the FCC requirements. The audio message will be there like always.

Will it affect Phones, Facebook, and Twitter? (2)

realsilly (186931) | more than 2 years ago | (#37972224)

If our government really wants to reach the people, just take down Facebook for a 30 second window and watch the panic ensue. There is a mass of the population who will see this Nationally broadcast message, but unless they hit the internet and key sites, this is not broad enough to reach a majority of the people.

Just send a Tweet. I understand that Tweets actually beat the aftershock waves along the Eastern seaboard when the quake hit Virginia a few months ago.

And a free Text message broadcasted to all phones would also work, but you know they won't do that, it shows how much power our government has and they don't want to tip their hand too early with that one.

Re:Will it affect Phones, Facebook, and Twitter? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37972314)

understand that Tweets actually beat the aftershock waves along the Eastern seaboard when the quake hit Virginia a few months ago.

that's a myth!!!!! perpetrated by XKCD which stands for xtra kavity cearces, da

DON'T PANIC (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37972226)

Honestly, don't. The chances of an actual emergency occurring during an emergency test are infinitesimal.

All reactor core safeguards are now non-functional. Please prepare for reactor core meltdown.

Seriously, everything is fine.

WARNING: Core overheating. Nuclear meltdown imminent.

This is just a test. Please try to focus on the buttons and cubes.

Re:DON'T PANIC (1)

rossdee (243626) | more than 2 years ago | (#37972488)

"Honestly, don't. The chances of an actual emergency occurring during an emergency test are infinitesimal."

This may be true for a natural disaster, but for a decade or more one possible national emergeancy could be a terrorist attack.
Since this test has been given enough publicity there may be terrorists (locall and international) that want to take advantage of the opportunity.

Even ordinary criminals could use it as a cover.

Re:DON'T PANIC (1)

Politburo (640618) | more than 2 years ago | (#37972998)

As an opportunity for what? As a cover for what?

Many people keep saying this is an 'opportunity' but never say how it would make an attack any more successful. It's not like law enforcement is going to be sitting around watching the test.

Cable (1)

Phrogman (80473) | more than 2 years ago | (#37972232)

'Due to some technical limitations, a visual message indicating that "this is a test" may not pop up on every TV channel, especially where people use cable to receive their television stations.'

Ah forgive me, I live up in Canada. Does anyone NOT receive their television from cable these days? Looking online (for what thats worth), it seems 72.7% of Canadians get their TV signal from cable, and 27% get it from Direct to Home (which is presumably referring to satellite TV) with 0.4% getting it from MDS Satellite (whatever that is), all as of 2005.

Is it not the same down there in the US? The fact that this might not pop up "THIS IS A TEST" on the majority of home TV systems would be enough for me to consider the entire system completely broken. There is no point in having a warning system that causes as much panic as a real event its intended to help warn against if you choose to test it.

In any given week it is entirely possible for me to not watch any TV (except perhaps downloaded content), or listen to the radio. I would likely read about it on the web but its quite possible I could miss the warning that a test was coming up. It wouldn't surprise me if a lot of other people managed to miss the notification that a test was happening, and then panic when the test happens. It would seem to me to be absolutely crucial that the fact that its just a test would be displayed on any warning sent out. I hope I am wrong of course, but I do hope no one dies from this test...

Re:Cable (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37972374)

Yeah, plenty of people still don't use cable. Mostly the poor, who can typically afford a TV and antenna but not a cable or satellite contract.

Or people who just don't watch TV, but do have a TV, such as me.

Re:Cable (2)

surgen (1145449) | more than 2 years ago | (#37972542)

Is it not the same down there in the US? The fact that this might not pop up "THIS IS A TEST" on the majority of home TV systems would be enough for me to consider the entire system completely broken. There is no point in having a warning system that causes as much panic as a real event its intended to help warn against if you choose to test it.

Its not broken, its just that some people are really, really dumb.

Not only will the actual audio of the alert be there saying that its just a test, there should be no panic at the presence of an alert if it were real. Every broadcast station here is required to activate the alert system for a test once a week and its used for real whenever there is severe weather.

There doesn't need to be a graphic "this is just a test" message, the emergency alerts in our country are audio-based with a bit of textual metadata (which is really only necessary for the broadcaster). The audio recording will say its a test. Some TV stations just have their audio signal overridden and continue displaying program video. Yes, its because they're too cheap for a character generator, but its not really a failure of the system to deliver a message. Perhaps a failure of the FCC's requirements and they should mandate video to be overridden too, but the message is still delivered fine.

Re:Cable (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37972942)

Because you know, no one is deaf or anything.

Re:Cable (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#37973016)

Its not broken, its just that some people are really, really dumb.

I think a lot of it is people living in areas where there ARE NO ALERTS, for whatever legal / cultural / geographic reasons, so they think human beings cannot survive under those conditions.

Where I live, the local cableco tests local EAS the first wednesday morn monthly, and the local cops test the useless tornado sirens every thursday morning at 0930 if the weather is non-threatening. Also we activate EAS every weekend evening, roughly, for child custody disputes 50 miles away, sure glad we have that interruption to our lives. I can imagine places exist where this kind of testing simply never happens... where people simply don't know how to react.

Kind of like some southerners simply cannot wrap their brains around the concept that an inch of snow isn't even newsworthy where I live, they go into utter freak out at the very concept of something like an inch of snow happening.

Re:Cable (1)

tibit (1762298) | more than 2 years ago | (#37972666)

Does anyone NOT receive their television from cable these days?

I'm considering dropping the cable TV part of my cable package since all that I watch is either available online on the network sites (with a slight delay), or it's on the channels that are available over-the-air, in HD no less. I have to get my behind up into the attic and install two antennas, though: there are two masts downtown that do OTA broadcasts, and they are separated enough that you need two antennas.

Re:Cable (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 2 years ago | (#37972764)

In 2010 Nielsen said [broadcastengineering.com] that only 9% of American households received only terrestrial broadcast TV (ie. not cable or satellite). That number might have increased as the recession has made dropping paid services in favor of free (plus a possible digital converter/antenna) terrestrial broadcasts, but not much.

However, I would expect that a much larger proportion of that tenth of American households is in reach of an alertable emergency, like flood or tornado. More who don't work, so are isolated at home, need it. More children on average in those households, so more Americans. So I wouldn't be surprised if over 25-30% of Americans who needs these alerts can get them only over broadcast TV. I also expect they watch more TV on average than Americans overall, especially without the Internet.

And because people in that condition have a higher chance of being stupid losers, who watch TV all day in their trailer park surrounded by more children than they can afford to feed or relocate from an emergency. But those people still need the public to warn them of emergencies.

Re:Cable (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#37973048)

In 2010 Nielsen said [broadcastengineering.com] that only 9% of American households received only terrestrial broadcast TV (ie. not cable or satellite). That number might have increased as the recession has made dropping paid services in favor of free

Don't forget long term ramifications... If for more than a generation, the median American inflation adjusted income has been dropping, while the cost of paid TV services has been increasing faster than inflation, planning for the future indicates that eventually, very few people will be paying for TV service, its just simple math. It is rare for govt or industry to plan ahead, but it could theoretically happen.

You designed it, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37972254)

wanted it foolproof. You said every television in London.

Mmkay... (1)

Old Sparky (675061) | more than 2 years ago | (#37972266)

But how is this Bush's Fault ?

Re:Mmkay... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37972408)

Bush was president when Obama was elected. The fact that Bush didn't prevent Obama getting elected means he planned it that way.

Re:Mmkay... (0)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 2 years ago | (#37972414)

Because your Bush Derangement Syndrome makes you deny anything is Bush's fault, regardless of even relevance. You Republicans got it the worst. Which is how you gave us Bush twice.

Re:Mmkay... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37972450)

FEMA & Homeland Security became powerful during his term. You would think that they would have tried something like this already. Yet, I'm not sure if I can think of a true 'nation-wide' emergency besides a solar flare and needing to unplug everything.

Ditching cable and this is amond the reasons why (1)

silas_moeckel (234313) | more than 2 years ago | (#37972316)

I've hating this since my S3 tivo's decided that any of these alerts it must change the channel to them and make me watch it 2 times in English and in Spanish and disable all functionality till it's over. The bad part is it tells me about things a hundred miles away or local river flooding (I'm 150 feet above the nearest river about the thousand year flood mark). The random amber alerts. This is political theater to scare more people into voting these guys back in. The weather alert systems are cheap and reliable. I'm waiting for flashy the security threat level in you area is mauve random mandatory anal probes at all checkpoints until further notice have a nice day.

Re:Ditching cable and this is amond the reasons wh (1)

Hittman (81760) | more than 2 years ago | (#37972440)

It's even better when you're watching a show you recorded days ago and the alert mutes the sound and replaces it with annoying beeps.

All of the alerts I've seen are for severe weather. Hey, guess what? We're used to thunderstorms. We're already prepared for them. Yeah, if it were a tornado I'd be concerned, but not three days later.

Don't see it on directv other then loacls or TWC (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#37972628)

When I used to have cable it sucked they cut out the sound even on the local channels so you can't even hear the local live weather report that is more detailed then then in there is a alert in $county.

I'll Tivo it (1)

ehiris (214677) | more than 2 years ago | (#37972380)

I can't wait to be alerted hours after the fact when I'll just have my show ruined because I have to fast forward through the annoyance.

Awfully pretentious of them to think that everyone watches and listens on frequencies that the FCC has made so unattractive that they're pretty much obsolete.

It's a Hoax (4, Interesting)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 2 years ago | (#37972384)

On September 11, 2001, the Emergency Alert System [wikipedia.org] (that replaced the Emergency Broadcast System in 1998) did not alert anything. NYC and DC were under multiple attack by planes that immediately crippled the country, surging panic throughout the nation and the world, and driving the USA down the path of ruinous war. But there were no announcements, no sirens, no alerts. Emergency, but no alerts. Precisely the kind of emergency the system was sold to the public to address. After decades, finally needed, useless.

The official explanation is so much media coverage that it wasn't needed [wikipedia.org]. As if any event requiring the system to work is going to go uncovered by the commercial media. That means the policy is for the system never to actually be used.

All those years of "testing" the system, all the money spent, all the alternate preparations ignored in favor of that one - all a total waste.

The weirdest thing is that it took years before I even heard someone mention that it didn't work. A forgettable comedian in about 2004-2005 had about 45 seconds about it

Now they'll spend a load of money on something else. It might even work. But since nobody even noticed, there'll be no reason for this new one to work. Except for those annoying tests that interrupt us. And leave us expecting we've built something necessary in an emergency, when we've just wasted more money on military contractors who delivered nothing.

Re:It's a Hoax (1)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 2 years ago | (#37972538)

That is a very good point, while they are probably right that the EAS was not needed on 9/11, it is the type of incident that the system was created for.

Re:It's a Hoax (1)

subreality (157447) | more than 2 years ago | (#37972562)

The idea is to broadcast useful instructions during an emergency. In the early days, that meant "nukes incoming; prepare to duck and cover / head to bomb shelter / find local fallout shelter". Sometimes we get "tornado incoming; get away from glass"; that one's pretty handy.

What would you broadcast on 9/11 during the brief window between WTF and 100% landed? "Beware of airplanes"? The news had THAT covered well before anyone in the government could put together a coherent sentence.

Re:It's a Hoax (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 2 years ago | (#37972912)

How did you know that the attack was "100% landed"?

Wait - if you think that the news has put together a coherent sentence since the planes started crashing, don't answer that. Especially if you think the news has had a sentence, coherent or not, before the government has given it to say.

Re:It's a Hoax (1)

blueg3 (192743) | more than 2 years ago | (#37972600)

It only has any effect if you're watching television or listening to the radio. By the time people knew what was going on, enough to make an emergency broadcast, every TV and radio station had already announced it voluntarily.

The emergency-alert system is actually pretty effective for local serious-weather alerts. (Not the minor weather alerts put together by the TV station itself, but the occasional Icy Roads of Death warning.)

Re:It's a Hoax (2)

weave (48069) | more than 2 years ago | (#37972716)

A good point, but it did kick in where I live during Hurricane Irene to let us know there was a tornado sighted within a few miles of our home and what track it was taking and advised seeking shelter quickly. Very useful.

Re:It's a Hoax (3, Informative)

chill (34294) | more than 2 years ago | (#37972868)

It worked for me during the 1998 outbreak of tornados in Tennessee [wikipedia.org]. I was in Nashville at the time and heading south by car when it kicked in. It was off and on all day and helped me navigate between storms and keep safe.

Quite useful that time.

Re:It's a Hoax (3, Insightful)

ScentCone (795499) | more than 2 years ago | (#37973072)

What were you expecting, an announcement that said, "Alert: We have no idea what to tell you to do, since we have no idea what just happened or what will happen next, who is involved, or the scope of the situation!" ?

Or perhaps: "Alert! Complex conflict with Jihaddist Wackadoos now coming to a head, since they're supporting and harboring the people who launched this attack! We can't tell you a thing to do except watch the news, because it's not the sort of emergency that lends itself to any specific instructions other than to avoid the Pentagon parking lot and Lower Manhattan, not that you could get near them anyway right now."

9/11 wasn't the least sort of situation that the EAS is meant to handle.It's meant to break into something you're already watching, and to pass along specific information. On 9/11, pretty much everything you were already watching was already diverted to news coverage, in real time.

The real truth about the test (1)

arthurpaliden (939626) | more than 2 years ago | (#37972510)

What is really happening is the asteroid that is heading to earth is not really in a stable orbit and it may actually hit the Earth. So the NWO has scheduled this test so that they can get the word out to all the elites to proceed to the shelter stations. Now they have been saying that it is just a test so that the general public will not really pay any attention to what is said in the broadcast. However, the elites will be listening for the key words in the broadcast.

Could someone explain what the point is? (1)

fredrated (639554) | more than 2 years ago | (#37972578)

After all, short of the Yellowstone supervolcano blasting ash over the whole coultry, what kind of emergency would involve the whole country at once?

Re:Could someone explain what the point is? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37972704)

China attacks West coast. Inbound missiles observed. Evacuate all major cities.

Re:Could someone explain what the point is? (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#37973136)

China attacks West coast. Inbound missiles observed. Evacuate all major cities.

I have a sort of the inside track on this from station engineer acquaintances / friends

They would never announce that for military reasons. Need the roads clear for the VIP evacs, troop carriers, tanks and artillery, etc. Panic in the streets is exactly the effect they are not looking for. Local nuke plant leak, chem plant leak, oh yes, lots of detail preparation and planning and procedures. Military / terror attack? No.

Coastal station engineers tell me tsunami warning delivery is considered kind of their shining goal as everything else (other than leaking plants mentioned above) is handled better using alternative methods. I guess theoretically a big tsunami could hit an entire coast.

Perfect time for a false flag operation... (1)

advocate_one (662832) | more than 2 years ago | (#37972668)

I would not be surprised if there is a dirty bomb set off in America to galvanize public opinion into invading Iran... let's face it... 9/11 took place while a major air defence exercise was taking place, 7/7 in London took place while a major exercise was underway in the London Tube.

Re:Perfect time for a false flag operation... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37973062)

let's face it... 9/11 took place while a major air defence exercise was taking place, 7/7 in London took place while a major exercise was underway in the London Tube.

Plus 10/66, which took place in the shadow of the Vikings attacking. Proof if proof were needed!

Why would we panic? (1)

koan (80826) | more than 2 years ago | (#37972900)

It's not like the media has been spewing terrorist FUD for the last 10 years, or whittling down peoples psychological stability with "end of the world" financial FUD, or... well you get my point.

This is a nation prepped for panic.

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