With the first National EAS Test just ten weeks away, more details regarding the exercise are emerging. The test is set for Wednesday, November 9 at 2:00 pm EST. (If you happen to have been in a sensory deprivation tank for the last several months and are drawing a blank on the whole National EAS Test question, check our previous posts to get caught up.)

At the appointed time, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will send out a “live” Emergency Action Notification (EAN) code activating the EAS for “a national emergency”. To forestall panic, the alert will include an audible “this is a test” notice. It’s a little iffy, though, whether the “live” EAN video message transmitted will be able to flash “this is a test” on video screens, which might be problematic for deaf or hearing-impaired viewers. FEMA and the FCC are working with EAS participants on possible technical solutions to mitigate the impact of this limitation.

Some of nitty-gritty details recently clarified include:

  • The test will conclude with transmission of an End of Message (EOM) code rather than an Emergency Action Termination (EAN) code. This means that EAS participants should not need to reconfigure their EAS encoder/decoder equipment.
  • The “location code” for the test will be Washington, D.C. The FCC presumes that most encoder/decoder devices will automatically forward an EAN with a Washington, D.C. location code without reconfiguration. But EAS participants unsure whether their device will do so need to check with either (a) the manufacturer of the box or (b) FEMA’s Integrated Public Alert and Warning System Office at IPAWS@dhs.gov. Better to tie that detail down sooner rather than later.
  • The test will last approximately three minutes. (Author’s comment: Really? After the President – or whoever is speaking – goes through the standard script (repeat after me: “This is only a test. If it had been a real National Emergency, you would have been instructed ….”), he’ll have about two minutes and fifteen seconds left. What’s next – a national “Sweet Caroline” sing along? An abbreviated version of John Cage’s 4’33”?)
  • FEMA is working with selected states, EAS participants and manufacturers to conduct statewide pre-tests. A national pre-test will not be conducted. To find out if your state is among those doing a test-in-advance-of-the-test, check with your state’s EAS contact) or FEMA’s IPAWS Office.

Stay tuned for further details as Test Day nears.