Emergency Alert System test goes off with a hitch

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY)-- The first ever nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System went across the air with a major hitch Wednesday.

The Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Communications Commission scheduled the test for 2 p.m. The nearly 30-second warning had an alert tone and a text scroll, but there was also supposed to be an audio message, but that didn't happen.

The Emergency Alert System is used locally for many tests and notifications, like an Amber Alert. This was the first nationwide test.

Officials say the system could be used to ensure that the President and other government officials can address the nation during significant emergencies.

New Hanover County Emergency Management Director Warren Lee says he was surprised that a portion of the system did not work and that a national alert was not explored sooner.

"Honestly, I'm surprised that we never have done a national test," Lee said. "You would think something like this, seems to us like it would be kind of simple. Why haven't we ever done it nationally? We can do it individually at each level of community, so why couldn't you do it as a whole nationwide test? I'm not sure why we never have done one before."

The New Hanover County 911 Center did not know what to expect in terms of the number of calls it might get when the alert happened. In the end, there was no spike in calls.

There was a scroll on the alert system so people watching television could at least read the warning, but for those listening to the radio it was dead air space with just an audible tone. Lee says it is a system that needs tweaking.

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Just more bureaucratic waste. All these "tests" happening with such frequency only tends to undermine the urgency should a real emergency occur. People are so accustomed to one test after another, most would assume a real emergency was just officials playing games. As for the Dept. of Homeland Security, better known as the Dept. of Plastic and Duct Tape, it would be great if President Obama completely disbanded this complete joke of an organization that serves absolutely no purpose but to spy on American citizens.

Riiinnnngggg, Ring BIG BROTHER IS CALLING.

Every week there is about 3-4 of these happening. This means are they testing them or are kids getting kidnapped and howcome the dang parents and supervising more better like they should. This is one of those things I said before Supervise your kids a lot better watch what they do this way they can't get lost or kidnapped.

...would require a NATIONWIDE alert, one so immediate that we couldn't get the word out quickly using normal media? If every major network can switch to a courthouse to get a verdict in any sensational trial, they can put the president on the air in very short order, as we have seen before.

How many BILLIONS did this oh-so-important capability cost?

Wanda, get off the internet and get back to answering the phones.

The nation does not need a system that allows the government to take over all TV and radio communications. The President can already go on TV anytime he wishes. I would rather trust the news from the individual stations than getting it from the government.

To promote national security, the Federal Emergency Management Administration and the FCC co-manage the Emergency Alert System in the United States. This nationwide test of the Alert System is the first step toward a more modern emergency system in the United States. The FCC is also working on developing both the Commercial Mobile Alert System and the Personalized Local Alert Network, both of which are systems that would use cellular and wireless networks to deliver alerts to specific geographical areas via cell phones and electronic communication devices. All cell phone carriers are required to update their hardware and software to accept these alerts by mid-2012. Article resource: National Emergency Alert System test planned for Nov. 9