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Did the Emergency Alert System Fail Its First Test?

11/09/2011 -

Initial reactions to the nationwide Emergency Alert System test scheduled for Wednesday show that it may still have some kinks to work out.

Across the nation, a set of beeps and tones, followed by a voice repeating “This is a test" was scheduled to be broadcast simultaneously on all regularly scheduled television, radio, cable, and satellite programs at 2:00 p.m. EST this afternoon.

Ten minutes after 2:00 p.m., however, watchers on the Web reported mixed results.

The Massachusetts State Police reported that thetest went smoothly, calling it “good practice in case of real national emergency alert.”  But based on reports from Twitter, many people had theirchannels change inexplicably, some had their TVscreens act erratically, and for a number of watchers the audio was heard, but instead of announcing "This is a test," itplayed Lady Gaga instead.

A radio station in New Jersey reported that the test must have been running late, but many peopledidn’t get anything at all – including some Direct TV Customers and viewers in Arkansas and Virginia. The alert didn’t appear on TVs in the Security Management offices.

“In some cases the test messages were delayed, perhaps because the messages are designed to trickle down from one place to many. A viewer in Minneapolis said he saw the message about three minutes late. A viewer in Chattanooga, Tenn., said she saw it about 10 minutes late,” the New York Times reported.

Half an hour after the test was scheduled, a representative from FEMA told Security Management that the agency has not yet determined if the test was a pass or fail, and would release the information once it had been evaluated -- though it hasn’t stopped media outlets from already reporting the test as acomplete failure.

The national Emergency Alert System is an alert and warning system that can be activated by the President, if needed, to provide information to the public during emergencies. NOAA can also use the system for more localized alerts.

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