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Communications Government United States

FEMA, FCC Hope To Forestall Panic Over National Emergency Alert 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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FEMA, FCC Hope To Forestall Panic Over National Emergency Alert

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  • TV? Radio? Huh? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 07, 2011 @09:18AM (#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?

  • media choice (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mapkinase ( 958129 ) on Monday November 07, 2011 @09:24AM (#37972168) Homepage Journal

    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:How effective? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kannibal_klown ( 531544 ) on Monday November 07, 2011 @09:30AM (#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:the real coup (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Lakitu ( 136170 ) on Monday November 07, 2011 @10:21AM (#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.

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

    by ScentCone ( 795499 ) on Monday November 07, 2011 @11:13AM (#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 whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts." -- Bertrand Russell