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Old 10-12-2001, 01:15 PM
Join Date: Mar 2000
Location: Saint Paul, Minn.
Posts: 454
Does anyone know if, and where, the Emergency Broadcast System (actually now called the Emergency Alert System) was activated on September 11?

About 10 years ago I worked at a radio station, and I remember the little code guide for the EBS. An alert code could be for anything from relatively minor and local (flood, tornado) to major and national (presidential assassination, nuclear explosion). Since then, they have modified the system somewhat and changed its name to the Emergency Alert System. The long beeeeeeeeeeeeeeep during the system tests has been replaced by a short series of electronic noises.

So... was this system activated on September 11? If so, what was it used for?
Old 10-12-2001, 07:38 PM
Join Date: Mar 2001
Location: Anchorage, AK USA
Posts: 820
The EAS has the added feature of overriding local programming with emergency information from a central source, i.e. the National Weather Service.

I know for a fact it was not activated in my area. Indeed, Lower Manhattan was the only real "disaster zone" on 9/11. There were two isolated plane crashes elsewhere, and mass confusion everywhere else. The EAS is not equipped to deal with that. For example, we had a brief evacuation that morning due to a hijacker scare (that turned out to be false). It was over within 15 minutes. The EAS is too broad to cope with that kind of rapidly-changing event.
Old 10-12-2001, 07:44 PM
Join Date: Oct 2001
Posts: 7
Come to think of it, I have never heard of the emergency broadcast system being used. I have heard it tested, but never used in an emergency.
Old 10-12-2001, 07:55 PM
Straight Dope Science Advisory Board
Join Date: Mar 2000
Location: Between the Moon and NYC
Posts: 13,018
As a Texan, I hear the Emergency Alert frequently, usually during weather emergencies.

Old 10-12-2001, 08:00 PM
Join Date: Mar 1999
Location: The Golden State
Posts: 10,565
When the next big earthquake hits California, come on out and you will get a chance to hear it. Bring your own water, food, clothing, sanitary equipment, and cash with you also.
Old 10-12-2001, 11:14 PM
Join Date: May 2000
Location: Decatur, Illinois, USA
Posts: 14,041
As an Illinoyan (Land O' Linkiner?) I hear it during tornado weather, too.
Old 10-12-2001, 11:19 PM
Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: Los Angeles County
Posts: 2,617
I've also heard it a few times, mostly in cases of Flash Flood warnings, and when the Northridge earthquake hit.

I also remember hearing on the news the day after the attacks that they were delaying testing as to not panic the populace, but I'm sure they'll have to start testing the system again soon.
Old 10-13-2001, 08:26 PM
Charter Member
Join Date: Jan 2000
Location: The Land of Cleves
Posts: 73,046
See also Songbird's Staff Report on this topic.
Old 01-04-2003, 12:00 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: Canon City, Colorado
Posts: 1
I was part of an EBS "mistake" in 1968 while working saturday morning in a radio station in Colorado. Some fool at Cheyenne Mountain, at Colorado Springs, picked up the wrong tape and broadcast an actual emergency alert.

There was panic for a while, but it all got sorted out in less than 30 minutes.

But let me tell you...that first five minutes used a lifetime supply of adrenaline, what a feeling...I was by myself, and was told we were under attack.

I still have copies of the original teletype messages.
Old 01-04-2003, 12:10 PM
Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: Uber Alles, CA
Posts: 3,613
Emergency Alerts pop up all the time in California, with our lovely cocktail of earthquakes, fires, flash floods, landslides, wind storms, riots, etc etc. We also now have the Amber Alert, which is a similar system for alerting the population to look out for a kidnapper or the like. We mostly see them in text messages that scroll over whatever television program is currently playing.

I'm not terribly certain that an emergency alert is necessary for a major earthquake. If you are within a hundred miles of the epicenter, you're pretty damn sure to be alerted by nature itself a lot quicker than the authorities.
Old 01-04-2003, 08:42 PM
Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: E 161 St. and River Ave.
Posts: 1,765
In New York on that day of horror, you couldn't tune your tv or your radio to anything BUT the breaking news. Even the Weather Channel was carrying the CNN feed. The Emergency alert would have been redundent to say the least.
Old 01-05-2003, 10:39 PM
Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: Arlington, VA
Posts: 256
On some interview I saw on CNN recently, someone was posed with this question. They said that it wasn't used because the media (as TV, radio, internet) could get updated information to the public much quicker then the government could.
Old 01-05-2003, 10:55 PM
Join Date: Jul 2001
Posts: 19
Don't know if any of you have heard of NAWAS before but it is the Govt form of EBS, it is activated first then the state Emergency Operation Centers send out a EBS. NAWAS was initialy a cold war program that was to alert everyone in case of invasion or nuclear attack. These days though it is used for major weather events (Tornados and Hurricanes) and also for Acts of Terrorism on Domestic Soil. Nawas was not activated at all on Sept 11th. Believe me, we were wondering the same thing. Hell, not to long ago NAWAS was activated everytime they thought they had a additional "Sniper" shooting, your heart jumps everytime that alarm goes off, was a real pain in the arse. No clue to why FEMA never set off any alerts on Sept. 11th. At work we always just assumed that everyone was to shocked and busy watching Fox News to do much of anything else, hell the media is where the govt. was getting most of its info from that day.

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