National Emergency Test A Failure

Some TV Stations Did Not Air The Nationwide Emergency Alert

A test of the national emergency alert system (EAS) on Wednesday was a failure.

While many television, radio and cable stations aired the message, others did not.

While Denver's 7 viewers on cable saw the alert, viewers who use antennas saw regular programming.

"KMGH did experience technical problems during this National EAS test," said Byron Grandy, vice-president and general manager of KMGH-TV.

The hardware that monitors the emergency alert system triggered and tried to cut into programming, but the message we got was not complete, Grandy explained.

The failure caused Denver's 7 to lose audio for more than two hours afterward while KMGH-TV engineers rebuilt several computer programs.

"We just conducted two state-sponsored EAS tests in the last two weeks and passed those successfully," Grandy said. "This is the first time they triggered the national alert system."

"The purpose of this national test was to find out what the issues were," Grandy said. "We are currently looking into the issue and will make necessary changes to ensure success in the future. KMGH is committed to doing just that.”

Other television stations across the country that use the same hardware reported similar problems.

The New York Times reported some odd problems like some DirecTV subscribers who said their TV sets played the Lady Gaga song "Paparazzi" when the test was under way and some Comcast subscribers in northern Virginia who said their TV sets were switched over to QVC before the alert was shown.

On KABC-TV in Los Angeles, a screen flashed with the EAS graphic for several minutes, but there was never any audio or information given. When normal programming returned, the anchors' microphones weren't working.

In Washington, D.C., WJLA-TV was stuck on the EAS slate for 4 minutes and WMAL-FM had dead air for nearly 2 minutes before the test finally ran.

On the television feeds at ABC News' headquarters in New York City, CNN ran a preview graphic saying, "Soon: Emergency Test Alert," but the actual test never ran. Both ESPN and Fox News teased that the test was coming up, but it never happened, according to ABC News. On MTV, it was afternoon programming as usual.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency released a statement saying data from the test was being collected.

"Only through comprehensively testing, analyzing, and improving these technologies can we ensure an effective and reliable national emergency alert and warning system," the statement said. "We … look forward to working with all our stakeholders to improve this current technology and build a robust, resilient, and fully accessible next generation alerting system that can provide timely and accurate alerts to the American people."

The Emergency Broadcast System was originally designed in the 1950s, revamped as the Emergency Alert System in the 1990s and is run by the Federal Emergency Management Administration and the FCC.

President George W. Bush signed an executive order in 2006 to mandate the nationwide system and national alert capability. The goal of Wednesday's test was to ensure the president could activate the system to inform the public in times of emergency.

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