Iowans will hear something unusual on their radios and TVs at one o’clock this afternoon (Wednesday), the first nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System. John Benson, with Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management, says most folks won’t even realize the scope of the test, which will involve many thousands of broadcast outlets.
“It’s going to sound and behave real similar to what you see happen either on a weekly or monthly basis with the radio stations in terms of them activating the tones and reading a brief message,” Benson says. “It’s going to be the first time they’ve done it on a nationwide basis but for most people, it’s going to appear just like that local or regional one they’re used to hearing.”
The test will just run 30-seconds but it’ll be heard from coast to coast, and not just on the radio.”It will go into the TV stations and also onto cable TV,” Benson says. “The only place you won’t hear it will be on the National Weather Service radio system because those two systems aren’t tied together yet but that’s something they’re looking at in the future.”
This test will -not- involve sounding the tornado sirens as it’s only for broadcasters on the radio and TV. Benson says it’s the largest-ever test of the Emergency Alert System. “As they built the system, they want to see if it works on a nationwide basis,” Benson says. “We know it works locally, we know it works regionally, so the next big step is, let’s see if the thing works on a nationwide basis and I would expect that it would.”
Federal officials say the main goal of the test is to: “assess the readiness and effectiveness of the current system and identify improvements to better serve communities in the preservation of life and property.” Benson says Iowans need to be aware. “It’s another good reminder as we’re moving into the winter weather season, to pay attention to those alerts on your TV or radio,” Benson says. “That’s important information. If there was something happening on a nationwide basis, can we make the system work? Obviously, pay attention to it and understand what’s going on.”