Emergency Alert System

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The Emergency Alert System (EAS) is a national warning system in the United States put into place on January 1, 1997 (approved by Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in November 1994),[1] when it replaced the Emergency Broadcast System (EBS), which in turn replaced the CONELRAD System. The official EAS is designed to enable the President of the United States to speak to the United States within 10 minutes.[2] In addition to this requirement, EAS is also designed to alert the public of local weather emergencies such as tornadoes and flash floods (and in some cases severe thunderstorms depending on the severity of the storm). A national EAS test was conducted on November 9, 2011, at 2 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. The most recent National EAS Test was performed September 28, 2016, at 2:20 PM EDT (11:20 AM PDT).[3]

EAS is jointly coordinated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the National Weather Service (NOAA/NWS). The EAS regulations and standards are governed by the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau of the FCC. EAS has become part of Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS), a program of FEMA.

EAS messages are transmitted via AM, FM, broadcast television, cable television and Land Mobile Radio Service, as well as VHF, UHF, and FiOS (wireline video providers). Digital television, satellite television, and digital cable providers, along with Sirius XM satellite radio, IBOC, DAB, smart phones and digital radio broadcasters, have been required to participate in the EAS since December 31, 2006.[4] DirecTV, Dish Network, and all other DBS providers have been required to participate since May 31, 2007.

In 2008, the FCC began work on another system for public alerting designed and targeted at smartphones, meant to support the EAS. The Commercial Mobile Alert System (now Wireless Emergency Alerts) made its debut in about early 2013 in select states for select events. While this system functions independently from the Emergency Alert System, it may broadcast identical information.

Technical concept[edit]

Messages in the EAS are composed of four parts: a digitally encoded SAME header, an attention signal, an audio announcement, and a digitally encoded end-of-message marker.

A Sage EAS ENDEC unit.

The About this sound SAME header  is the most critical part of the EAS design. It contains information about who originated the alert (the President, state or local authorities, the National Weather Service (NOAA/NWS), or the broadcaster), a short, general description of the event (tornado, flood, severe thunderstorm), the areas affected (up to 32 counties or states), the expected duration of the event (in minutes), the date and time it was issued (in UTC), and an identification of the originating station (see SAME for a complete breakdown of the header).

77 radio stations are designated as National Primary Stations in the Primary Entry Point (PEP) System to distribute presidential messages to other broadcast stations and cable systems.[5] The Emergency Action Notification is the notice to broadcasters that the President of the United States or his/her designee will deliver a message over the EAS via the PEP system.[6]

Primary Entry Point (PEP) stations[edit]

PEP stations are private or commercial radio broadcast stations that cooperatively participate with FEMA to provide emergency alert and warning information to the public before, during, and after incidents and disasters. The FEMA PEP stations also serve as the primary source of initial broadcast for a Presidential Emergency Alert Notification (EAN). PEP stations are equipped with additional and backup communications equipment and power generators designed to enable them to continue broadcasting information to the public during and after an event. The Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) Program Management Office (PMO) is expanding the number of participating broadcast stations across the nation to directly cover over 90 percent of the U.S. population. PEP station expansion will help ensure that under all conditions the President of the United States can alert and warn the public.

In September 2009, FEMA contracted with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to equip selected radio stations to become FEMA Primary Entry Point (PEP) stations. The project with USACE is actively bringing new stations into the FEMA PEP program. High level tasks for activating a new PEP station include: initial site assessments, environmental assessments, design specifications, construction of special facilities, and coordinating memorandums of agreement with the stations and activity coordination with the State, territorial, tribal, and local jurisdictions and the FEMA regional offices.

PEP stations provide resilience for alerts and warnings to the public. The IPAWS Program Management Office (PMO) is modernizing existing PEP stations with next generation alert and warning equipment to include Common Alert Protocol (CAP) compliance equipment, and Internet Protocol enabled equipment.

Satellite communications infrastructure can be fully integrated with the legacy Emergency Alert System (EAS) and provides a reliable, redundant commercial system utilizing multiple uplinks and satellites for national level EAS distribution. The IPAWS PMO continues to complete the integration of satellite data transmission paths as a diverse path for EAS message delivery from FEMA to PEP stations. An XM Radio transmission path was completed in the first quarter of 2010, and direct satellite connectivity became available to the national PEP stations in the third quarter of 2010.

The IPAWS EAS Modernization and PEP Expansion project includes and maintains 77 operational PEP stations throughout the United States and its territories. Direct coverage of the nation's population will expand from approximately 67 percent in 2009 to over 90 percent when all 77 PEP stations become operational in 2015.[7]

Communication links[edit]

The FEMA National Radio System (FNARS) "Provides Primary Entry Point service to the Emergency Alert System", and acts as an emergency presidential link into the EAS. The FNARS net control station is located at the Mount Weather Emergency Operations Center.[8]

Once an EAN is received by an EAS participant from a PEP station (or any other participant) the message then "daisy chains'" through the network of participants. "Daisy chains" form when one station receives a message from multiple other stations and the station then forwards that message to multiple other stations. This process creates many redundant paths through which the message may flow increasing the likelihood that the message will be received by all participants and adding to the survivability of the system.

Each EAS participant is required to monitor at least two other participants.


In a New York Times article (correction printed January 3, 2002)[9]

No president has ever used the current [EAS] system or its technical predecessors in the last 50 years, despite the Soviet missile crisis, a presidential assassination, the Oklahoma City bombing, major earthquakes and three recent high-alert terrorist warnings...Michael K. Powell, the then chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, which oversees the Emergency Alert System, pointed to 'the ubiquitous media environment,' arguing that the system was, in effect, scooped by CNN, MSNBC, Fox News Channel and other channels... [FEMA] activates the alert system nationally at the behest of the White House on 34 50,000-watt stations that reach 98 percent of Americans... Beyond that, the current EAS signal is an audio message only – which pre-empts all programming – so that viewers who were watching color images of the World Trade Center on September 11 would have been able to see only a screen with a generic text message along with a presidential voice-over, if an emergency message had been activated.[9]

EAS header[edit]

Because the header lacks error detection codes, it is repeated three times for redundancy. However, the repetition of the data can itself be considered an error detection and correction code – like any error detection or correction code, it adds redundant information to the signal in order to make errors identifiable. EAS decoders compare the received headers against one another, looking for an exact match between any two, eliminating most errors which can cause an activation to fail. The decoder then decides whether to ignore the message or to relay it on the air if the message applies to the local area served by the station (following parameters set by the broadcaster).

The SAME header bursts are followed by an About this sound attention signal  which lasts between eight and 25 seconds, depending on the originating station. The tone is About this sound 1050 Hz  on a NOAA Weather Radio (NOAA/NWS) station, while on commercial broadcast stations, it consists of a "two tone" combination of 853 Hz and 960 Hz sine waves, the same one used by the older Emergency Broadcast System. These tones have become infamous, as they are considered to be both frightening and annoying to many viewers; indeed, the two tones were chosen because they form an interval suited to getting the audience's attention due to its unpleasantness on the human ear. The SAME header is equally known for its shrillness, which many have found to be startling. The "two tone" system is no longer required as of 1998, and is to be used only for audio alerts before EAS messages.[10][full citation needed] Like the EBS, the attention signal is followed by a voice message describing the details of the alert.

A Gorman-Redlich rack mounted CAP-to-EAS converter which translates CAP formatted alerts into EAS headers.

The message ends with three bursts of the AFSK "EOM", or End of Message, which is the text NNNN, preceded each time by the binary 10101011 calibration.

The White House endorsed the integration of the Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) in a presidential initiative,[11] and FEMA is in the process of testing implementation.[12][page needed]

Station requirements[edit]

The FCC requires all broadcast stations and multichannel video programming distributors (MVPD) to install and maintain FCC-certified EAS decoders and encoders at their control points or headends. These decoders continuously monitor the signals from other nearby broadcast stations for EAS messages. For reliability, at least two source stations must be monitored, one of which must be a designated local primary. Stations are to retain the latest version of the EAS handbook.

Stations are required by federal law to keep logs of all received messages. Logs may be kept by hand but are usually kept automatically by a small receipt printer in the encoder/decoder unit. Logs may also be kept electronically inside the unit as long as there is access to an external printer or method to transfer them to a personal computer.

In addition to the audio messages transmitted by radio stations, "television broadcast stations shall transmit a visual message containing the Originator, Event, Location and the valid time period of an EAS message".[13] This may be a text "crawl" or a static visual message. A text "crawl" is displayed at the top of the screen that contains all of the information encoded in the initial SAME header. A color-coded "crawl" system is often used where the color signifies the priority of the message. Some television stations transmit only a static slide containing the required information. A television station may be used for monitoring by another station and thus the audio is necessary.[10][full citation needed]

Stations are required by federal law to relay Emergency Action Notification (EAN) messages immediately (47 CFR Part 11.54).[14] Stations traditionally have been allowed to opt out of relaying other alerts such as severe weather, and child abduction emergencies (AMBER Alerts) if they so choose.

System tests[edit]

All EAS equipment must be tested on a weekly basis. The required weekly test (RWT) consists, at a minimum, of the header and end-of-message tones. Though an RWT does not need an audio or graphic message announcing the test, many stations provide them as a courtesy to the public. In addition, television stations are not required to transmit a video message for weekly tests. RWTs are scheduled by the station on random days and times, (though quite often during late night or early afternoon hours), and are generally not relayed.[10][full citation needed]

A Required Monthly Test (RMT) transmitted in New Jersey on April 15, 2014 as shown on a television set.

Required monthly tests (RMTs) are generally originated by the local or state primary station, a state emergency management agency, or by the National Weather Service (NWS) and are then relayed by broadcast stations and cable channels. RMTs must be performed between 8:30 a.m. and local sunset during odd numbered months, and between local sunset and 8:30 a.m. during even numbered months. Received monthly tests must be retransmitted within 60 minutes of receipt.[10][15] Additionally, an RMT should not be scheduled or conducted during an event of great importance such as a pre-announced Presidential speech, coverage of a national/local election, major local or national news coverage outside regularly scheduled newscast hours or a major national sporting event such as the Super Bowl or World Series, with other events such as the Daytona 500 and Olympic Games mentioned in individual EAS state plans.

An RWT is not required during a calendar week in which an RMT is scheduled. No testing has to be done during a calendar week in which all parts of the EAS (header burst, attention signal, audio message, and end of message burst) have been legitimately activated.

National tests[edit]

The first test of the EAS at a national level occurred on November 9, 2011. This test was the culmination of planning rulemaking and public service announcements. Starting in a report by the FCC in 2009 on the preparedness of the FCC for major public emergencies concerns were raised regarding "frequency and scope of EAS testing".[16] This led to two preliminary tests in the state of Alaska; one occurred during January 2010.[17]

The second Nationwide EAS Test happened on September 28, 2016 at 2:20 pm EDT (11:20 am PDT)[18] as part of National Preparedness Month.[19] Prior to the test, FEMA tested regional EAS systems from November 17, 2014, to the most recent on March 24, 2016. The purpose of these tests were to ensure results of the 2011 test (see below) would not occur again.

As of the 2016 National Test, these EAS tests are now referred to as "National Periodic Tests", under the code NPT.

National test results[edit]

Results of November 9, 2011 test[edit]
Screen announcing the nationwide test of the EAS, November 9, 2011, mainly generated by the EAS decoder at cable operator headends, listing that the test was generated within the District of Columbia rather than locally.

On November 9, 2011, after the national test was attempted,[20] stations began calling in saying that some of their receivers were not able to relay the test or simply just did not get the test at all; DirecTV users reported even hearing Lady Gaga's "Paparazzi" throughout the test. This was due to DirecTV using an off-air channel to deliver the SAME header for the message, which was also playing "Paparazzi" at the time the header was broadcast.[17]

On April 12, 2013, the FCC released the results of the November 9, 2011 test.[21]

According to the FCC, 18% of stations failed to either receive or retransmit the alert.[21] The message, according to some, also lacked the alert code which would allow the President to speak. Due to a feedback loop in the PEP system, the test could be heard several times in the background, and the EOM (end of message) code was sent twice, violating EAS rules. The test was cut down to 30 seconds rather than the proposed three minutes.

Although there were several frequently reported issues, the FCC states that the test demonstrated that the national EAS architecture is basically sound. Some of these problems included:

  • Bad audio quality[21]
    • A malfunction at the National Primary level inserted a second level of header tones into the audio portion of the message, which created a large-delay reverb effect and noisy background levels, which increased in intensity each time the EAN message was passed on. Since then, FEMA has reconfigured their equipment correctly.[21]
  • Lack of a Primary Entry Point in some areas, leaving those areas without a direct connection to FEMA[21]
    • At the time of the test, there was no established Primary Entry Point in Portland, Oregon. The Oregon EAS State Plan instructed all stations west of the Cascades (including Portland) to monitor public radio station KOPB-FM, which would receive the alert from the NPR Squawk Channel. The audio quality of the alert that KOPB-FM received via the NPR Squawk Channel was exceptionally poor, and most monitoring stations' equipment did not recognize the alert at all or only broadcast the first few seconds of the alert. The FCC has since expanded PEP coverage to West of the Cascades (including Portland).[21]
  • Use of alternatives to PEP-based EAN distribution[21]
    • The FCC found that some stations chose to use alternatives to the PEP-based daisy-chain mode of propagation, and that some of these alternatives may not be able to receive the EAN effectively in times of emergency. The FCC has advised these stations to request approval from the FCC for these alternative ways of receiving the EAN.
  • Inability of some participants to receive/transmit the EAN[21]
    • Some EAS Participants stated that, although they heard the EAN from their monitoring stations, they were not able to rebroadcast it to their audience. The FCC found that the cause of this was usually operator error, or that the Participant's equipment was programmed incorrectly.
  • Short test length[21]
    • The FCC found that some EAS equipment manufacturers designed their equipment to not rebroadcast EANs shorter than 75 seconds due to a misinterpretation of the FCC regulations. Another EAS Participant suggested that the 30 second duration of the test was insufficient to allow its engineers to manually override its equipment when automatic equipment functions failed.

The first-ever Nationwide EAS Test was a success in that it demonstrated that the national EAS would generally perform as designed, if activated.[21] At the same time, the test showed several areas that need improvement. The FCC says they will continue to work with FEMA, EAS participants and other EAS stakeholders to address these problems.

Results of September 28, 2016 test[edit]

The prior regional tests prior to the second National Test were supposed to solve the problems in the 2011 test, but some problems noticed before came to the forefront once more. Once again, some DirecTV viewers could not hear the test, though no music was playing in the background. Some viewers on other networks such as DISH did not even receive the test. One PEP system (WKYC-TV in Cleveland) saw the test crawl line, then froze and reverted to a static screen. The subsequent screen had the header and attention signal volume up loud enough to cause hearing loss, and could be heard from a block away, which then cut back to the EOM blasts on a regular screen.[citation needed] This National Periodic was limited to Primary Entry Point outlets in some states (such as KHON-TV and KSSK radio (both in Hawaii), and WKYC-TV in Cleveland) and not as widespread as in 2011, though some viewers called in with complaints about the absent test.[citation needed]

Results of this test, if the timetable allows, will be released publicly in 2017 or 2018 after FEMA and the FCC inspects and evaluates all Primary Entry Point radio, television, and satellite systems in all 50 states and territories.

Additions and proposals[edit]

The number of event types in the national system has grown to eighty. At first, all but three of the events (civil emergency message, immediate evacuation, and emergency action notification [national emergency]) were weather-related (such as a tornado warning). Since then, several classes of non-weather emergencies have been added, including, in most states, the AMBER Alert System for child abduction emergencies. In 2016, three additional weather alert codes were authorized for use in relation to hurricane events, including Extreme Wind Warning (EWW), Coastal Flood Warning (CFW) and Coastal Flood Advisory (CFA).

In 2004, the FCC issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPR) seeking comment on whether EAS in its present form is the most effective mechanism for warning the American public of an emergency and, if not, on how EAS can be improved, such as mandatory text messages to cellphones, regardless of subscription. As noted above, rules implemented by the FCC on July 12, 2007 provisionally endorse incorporating CAP with the SAME protocol.

On February 3, 2011, the FCC announced plans and procedures for national EAS tests, which will involve all television and radio stations connected to the EAS, as well as all cable and satellite services in the United States. It will not be relayed on the NOAA Weather Radio (NOAA/NWS) network as it is an initiation-only network and does not receive messages from the PEP network.[22][23] The national test would transmit and relay an EAS test message from the White House. This protocol was first used in the first national test of the EAS, conducted on November 9, 2011 at 2:00 p.m. EST.[24][25]

EAS for consumers[edit]

EAS is designed to be useful for the entire public, not just those with SAME-capable equipment. However, several consumer-level radios do exist, especially weather radio receivers, which are available to the public through both mail-order and retailers. Other specialty receivers for AM/FM/ACSSB (LM) are available only through mail-order, or in some places from federal, state, or local governments, especially where there is a potential hazard nearby such as a chemical factory. These radios come pre-tuned to a station in each area that has agreed to provide this service to local emergency management officials and agencies, often with a direct link back to the plant's safety system or control room for instant activation should an evacuation or other emergency arise.

The ability to narrow messages down so that only the actual area in danger is alerted is extremely helpful in preventing false warnings, which was previously a major tune-out factor. Instead of sounding for all warnings within a station's area, SAME-decoder radios now sound only for the counties for which they are programmed. When the alarm sounds, anyone with the radio knows that the danger is nearby and protective action should be taken. For this reason, the goal of the National Weather Service (NOAA/NWS) is that each home should have both a smoke detector and a SAME weather radio.


The EAS was, notably, not used during the aftermath of the September 11 attacks in New York and Washington. Richard Rudman, the chairman of the EAS National Advisory Committee, explained that near immediate coverage in the national media meant that the media itself provided the warning or alert of what had happened and what might happen as quickly as the information could be distributed. "Some events really do serve as their own alerts and warnings. With the immediate live media coverage, the need for an EAS warning was lessened." 34 PEP stations were kept on high alert for use if the President had decided to order an Emergency Action Notification. "PEP is really a last-ditch effort to get a message out if the president cannot get to the media."[26]

On February 1, 2005, someone activated an EAS message over radio and television stations in Connecticut telling residents to evacuate the state immediately. Officials at the Office of Emergency Management announced that the activation and broadcast of the Emergency Alert System was in error due to possibly the wrong button being pressed. "State police said they received no calls related to the erroneous alert."[27]

On June 26, 2007, the EAS in Illinois was activated at 7:35 a.m. CDT and issued an Emergency Action Notification Message for the United States. This was followed by dead air and then WGN radio (the station designated to simulcast the alert message) being played on almost every television and radio station in the Chicago area and throughout much of Illinois.[28] Instead of hearing official information, what viewers heard instead was a very confused Garry Meier from WCKG, who was wondering "what that beeping was all about". The accidental EAS activation was caused when a government contractor installing a new satellite receiver as part of a new national delivery path incorrectly left the receiver connected and wired to the state EOC's EAS transmitter before final closed circuit testing of the new delivery path had been completed.[29]

On October 19, 2008, KWVE-FM in San Clemente, California was scheduled to conduct a Required Weekly Test. However, it conducted a Required Monthly Test by mistake, causing all stations and cable systems in the immediate area to relay the test. In addition, the operator aborted the test midway through, leading the station to fail to broadcast the SAME EOM burst to end the test, causing all area outlets to broadcast KWVE-FM's programming until those stations took their equipment offline.[30] On September 15, 2009, the Federal Communications Commission fined its licensee, Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, $5,000 for the botched EAS test. After the fine was levied, various state broadcast associations in the United States submitted joint letters to the FCC, protesting against the fine, saying that the FCC could have handled the matter better.[31] On November 13, 2009, the FCC rescinded its fine against KWVE-FM, but had still admonished the station for broadcasting an unauthorized RMT, as well as omitting the code to end the test.[32]

On May 20, 2010, NOAA All-Hazards and CSEPP tone alert radios in the Hermiston, Oregon area, near the Umatilla Chemical Depot, were activated with an EAS alert shortly after 5 p.m. The message transmitted was for a severe thunderstorm warning, issued by the National Weather Service in Pendleton, but the transmission broadcast instead was a long period of silence, followed by a few words in Spanish. Umatilla County Emergency Management has stressed there was no emergency at the depot.[33]

During September 2010, the staff of KCST-FM in Florence, Oregon noticed that the station's EAS equipment would repeatedly unmute as if receiving an incoming EAS message several times a week. During each event, which was relayed from KKNU in Springfield, the same commercial advertisement for ARCO/BP gasoline could be heard, along with the words "This test has been brought to you by ARCO". Further investigation by the primary station transmitting the commercial revealed that the spot had been produced using an audio clip of an actual EAS header which had been modified to lower the header's volume and presumably prevent it from triggering false positive alert reactions in EAS equipment. The spot was distributed nationally, and after it had once been identified as the source of the false EAS equipment trips, various stations around the country reported having had similar experiences. After a widespread notification by the Society of Broadcast Engineers was issued, ARCO's ad agency withdrew the commercial from airplay.[34] McKenzie River Broadcasting, the parent company of KKNU, was later served with a Notice of Apparent Liability with a forfeiture amount of $10,000 for having played the commercial advertisement containing the header tones. This issue, once considered resolved without a fine being levied, resurfaced in 2013, holding up KKNU's license renewal application. Ultimately, no action by the FCC was taken and the license renewal was granted.

In October 2011, the FCC fined WHPR-FM in Highland Park, Michigan $22,000 for numerous violations, one of which was not having any EAS equipment in use; an employee of the station pointed out that the station's EAS decoder was stored in a closet.[35]

On November 9, 2011, the first National EAS Test was conducted (as described above). Many people that were watching television or listening to radio reported barely hearing the audio, not seeing the video, hearing overlapping audio, or on cable and satellite systems which redirect to one certain channel slot to launch the test, were stuck on the EAS channel without routing to the test (such as a non-essential shopping channel, TV Guide Network, a Music Choice audio channel, or in DirecTV's case, a Sonic Tap audio channel airing Lady Gaga's "Paparazzi" at the time).[36]

On June 15, 2012, WNKY, the NBC/CBS affiliate in Bowling Green, Kentucky premiered an advertisement for a local licensed sports apparel store it produced, featuring EAS tones within the ad used in a non-emergency manner and went out over the station's main NBC signal and CBS digital subchannel. On November 5, 2013, the station's owner, Max Media, through its licensee, MMK License, was assessed a $39,000 fine (listed in the FCC's statement as a "voluntary contribution to the U.S. Treasury") by the FCC due to the ad. WNKY's digital channels, in addition to the FCC fine, will also launch a local campaign about the EAS through their programs and the station's website, air additional emergency preparation public service announcements, and lease space on their tower to the Warren County Emergency Management agency and the City of Bowling Green for modernized warning equipment. Additionally in the same manner, the FCC proposed a $25,000 fine against the cable network TBS and its corporate parent Time Warner for an inappropriate use of EAS tones within a 2012 promotional spot for their talk show Conan which had not been put past standards and practices; the use of tones was part of a promotion involving guest Jack Black.[37][38]

On February 11, 2013, hackers broke into the EAS networks in Great Falls, Montana and Marquette, Michigan to broadcast an emergency alert that zombies have risen from their graves in several counties in Montana and Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Stations KRTV in Great Falls, WBUP and WNMU-TV in Marquette broke into programming to broadcast the false alerts.[39][40] It was determined that a number of stations installed station equipment without firewall or security protection, and further neglected to change default factory logins or passwords, opting to use factory presets instead. Because of this, the FCC, FEMA, equipment manufacturers, as well as trade groups, including the Michigan Association of Broadcasters, urged broadcasters to change their passwords and to recheck their security measures.[41]

On February 13, 2013, WIZM-FM in La Crosse, Wisconsin inadvertently triggered the EAS on WKBT-DT by playing a recording of the fake alert during its morning show.[42] The alert was seemingly inspired by the Anthrax song "Fight 'Em 'Til You Can't"; the message relayed in the incident lifted a quote from the song's introduction about a zombie uprising. The audio used, meanwhile, came from a video posted to YouTube in September 2008.[43]

In March 2014, the EAS was activated in Orlando, Florida for a Child Abduction Emergency; the alert lasted for 30 seconds followed by dead air.[citation needed]

On October 24, 2014, television viewers of certain stations in Atlanta, Detroit, and Austin reported seeing Emergency Action Notification messages and notifications that the programming was being interrupted by the White House, despite the fact that there was no real emergency.[44] The emergency alert originated at Nashville, Tennessee radio station WSIX-FM, where morning show host Bobby Bones replayed the 2011 EAS test as part of a rant about a genuine EAS test locally interrupting Game 2 of the 2014 World Series on October 22. The errant test was relayed to some radio and television stations and cable systems nationwide, as Bobby Bones' program was also broadcast on other Country-formatted stations, particularly those owned by WSIX-FM's parent company, iHeartMedia (formerly Clear Channel Communications).[45] On May 19, 2015, iHeartMedia was fined $1 million for the incident, and was ordered to implement a three-year compliance plan and remove all EAS tones or similar-sounding noises from its audio production libraries in order to avoid any further incidents.[46]

On Saturday, September 3, 2016, television viewers in Suffolk County, New York saw a message crawl across their television screen erroneously calling for an evacuation of the entire county.[47] The message was intended to announce a voluntary evacuation order for Fire Island, a barrier beach community threatened by Tropical Storm Hermine. Instead, what showed up on television screens at 7:40 p.m. on read, “Civil Authorities have issued an Evacuation Immediate for the following New York counties: Suffolk. Effective until September 04–07:10 AM EDT. This is an emergency message from.” It ended there. According to Newsday, a spokeswoman for the Federal Emergency Management Agency said its officials are investigating why the message, sent by Suffolk County Fire, Rescue and Emergency Services (FRES), was shortened. About 10 to 15 minutes after the first message, the original warning reappeared with the new message — “UPDATED Message — Voluntary evacuation of Fire Island ONLY by 1 pm Saturday 9/4/16” — tacked onto the end. Greg Miniutti, chief of communication for FRES, stated that the dispatch supervisor who sends the alert typed in the message correctly through the county’s Code Red system. FEMA spokeswoman Lauren Lefebvre said the original message that appeared on television is generated automatically by the computer system. The agency is investigating why the rest of the county’s message wasn’t broadcast. The error generated a flood of 911 calls.[47]

During the second National Periodic on September 28, 2016, many viewers of DirecTV and DISH, the same two direct broadcast satellite operators affected by the first National Periodic in 2011, complained that they were once again not able to see or hear the audio of the test. One PEP in Cleveland, NBC3, had the test freeze halfway through and change to a static screen, in which the audio was overmixed and loud enough to blow out TV speakers and cause hearing loss at close range. The screen then froze without playing the audio message and changed to the PEP channel and EOM blasts were heard shortly after.[citation needed] A YouTube video [48] also showed the test coming in the form of a repeated Child Abduction Emergency with garbled sound.

On October 25, 2016, radio station KNZR in Bakersfield, California issued an Emergency Action Notification; however, the intended message was a routine Required Monthly Test. The Primary Entry Point station in California did not relay the alert. A YouTube video posted by a listener with the username "heatcats" captured the incident and decoded the SAME transmission.[49]

On February 28, 2017, radio station WZZY FM 98.3 in Winchester, Indiana issued a false EAS alert, when hackers accessed the station's Sage endec EAS equipment and issued alerts about a zombie attack and disease outbreak from deceased bodies. The incident prompted a public response from the Randolph County Sheriff's Department clarifying that the station's "alerting equipment had been hacked" and there was no actual emergency.[50][51]

In popular culture[edit]

The EAS has become a popular device in entertainment due to its nature of use in emergency situations.

  • In the 2005 film version of War of The Worlds, the test version of the EAS warning can be heard playing over the radio on repeat during a scene in which the main characters are driving through the countryside, fleeing an alien invasion of Earth. The test warning during the actual emergency in the film could be seen as a dark-humored reference to Orson Welles's 1938 War of The Worlds Broadcast, in which real panic resulted from fictitious news reports of a supposed Martian invasion.[52]
  • Tones from the EAS were used in the trailer for the 2013 film Olympus Has Fallen;[53] cable providers were fined $1.9 million by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on March 3, 2014 for misuse of EAS tones.[54] An event similar to this previously occurred in November 2013 when TBS was fined $25,000 for simulating tones from the EAS in a Conan advertisement.[55]
  • Black Mesa, the modernized remake of Half-Life, produced a fictional EAS message that reports on the initial incident of the game. In-game, it is played once on a radio in a hallway. The audio file is also available for listening outside the game.[56][57]
  • In the film World War Z, there is an emergency alert on the radio in Thomas' apartment, but with only one SAME tone.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "What is Conelrad? EBS? EAS?". 
  2. ^ "Emergency broadcasts can be hacked, US researchers say". BBC News. July 9, 2013. 
  4. ^ "Federal Register 76220" (PDF). Federal Communications Commission. United States Government Printing Office. December 20, 2006. 
  5. ^ Federal Emergency Management Administration [1]. Primary Entry Point Stations. Retrieved September 25, 2013
  6. ^ "Emergency Alert System 2001 AM & FM Handbook". Emergency Alert System 2001 AM & FM Handbook. United States: United States Federal Communications Commission. 2001. p. 4. 
  7. ^ "Primary Entry Point Stations". FEMA.gov. 
  8. ^ Merlin, Ross Z. (2004). "Communications Systems for Public Health Contingencies" (PDF). DHS/FEMA Wireless Program Management Team. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-06-25. 
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  46. ^ iHeart Fined $1 Million For Bobby Bones EAS TriggerRadio Insight (published May 19, 2015)
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  48. ^ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_It60a1lvcI
  49. ^ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_nnOEcrBZWA
  50. ^ http://fox59.com/2017/03/01/hackers-take-over-randolph-county-radio-stations-alert-system-send-out-messages-about-fake-zombie-attack/
  51. ^ http://www.wcpo.com/news/state/state-indiana/hacked-radio-station-reports-zombie-attack-and-disease-outbreak-in-randolph-county-indiana
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  56. ^ "Website Related to Half-Life Remake Broadcasts Emergency Message". Kotaku. January 2, 2015. 
  57. ^ Black Mesa Emergency Broadcast on YouTube

External links[edit]