Wednesday, November 2, 2011

This is Only a Test

On Wednesday, November 9, at 11:00 a.m., (California Time – 8 a.m. Eastern, etc.) the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will be conducting the first nation-wide test of this kind.

At this same time, all across the nation, a three and half minute message of “This is a test of the Emergency Alert System...this is only a test...” will be broadcast to all radio and television stations. Most people probably have seen some type of local monthly tests on TV or radio, but the timing and messaging of these systems vary from station to station, state to state. By contrast, this one will be the same from coast to coast.

I found this reassuring that we are getting our emergency messages standardized across the nation and that support for these types of important services are now supported at a federal level and not dependent on the resources, or lack thereof, of local TV and radio stations.

And, actually I was feeling pretty good about this test until my husband said, “But most people don’t watch live TV anymore and, for that matter, many don’t listen to live radio.” Geesh, he was right. [Yes, he WILL frame this blog and highlight that sentence...] But, it’s true! I can’t remember the last time I watched live TV. We record the programs we want to watch and super-fast forward through commercials and other interruptions, so any emergency message that could be there would be swept along with all those messages to help me be prettier, have a cleaner toilet bowl and drive a cooler car.

The good news is that even if a real emergency message were passed along this way, we would still catch wind of it. We may not be hooked up to TV and radio the way we once were, but we are very connected to “ancillary” devices such as iPods, iPads and smart phones that are connected to news feeds. Social networks also seem to be close tabs on the pulse of what is going on, although from my experience the validity of what is posted is variable and often questionable...

So, when you hear the “This is a test, this is only a test,” relax. You didn’t need to study or even cram for this test. It just happens and you will receive an A just for being alive to hear it. Congratulations.

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