America’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is to conduct a nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System (EAS) at 2pm EST, interrupting TV and radio broadcasts briefly to check how the new system works.
The EAS is designed to be used to alert the public to serious dangers facing America. It would likely have been deployed, for example, during 9/11. Development of the EAS reflects official awareness that the growing noise of social media and national / regional news networks makes it harder than ever for ‘official’ information to be heard. And if rumours and false claims fly, panic could follow.
The test is expected to last around 30 seconds, but there are still concerns that some people won’t understand it’s a test and will panic. Some critics argue that the test is a little old-fashioned, since it does not include media channels such as the internet and mobile phone systems that increasingly challenge TV and radio for prominence.