MOUNT VERNON — For the first time in its 14 year history, there will be a nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System on Wednesday at 2 p.m.
This means that all regularly scheduled television, radio, cable, and satellite communications will be interrupted at the same time when the system is tested. The test will last about a minute.
The Knox County Health Department and the Knox County Emergency Management Agency want local residents to be aware that this event is just a test, and not a real emergency alert. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has coined the phrase: “Don’t stress, it’s just a test,” to alert people about the upcoming test.
“Most people are familiar with the tone test we hear periodically on radio or the information banner that we periodically see on TV,” said Patrick Valentino, emergency response coordinator with the health department. “However, this time, all radio and TV stations will broadcast the test at the same time which will include the statement: This is a test.”
The test is being conducted by FEMA, the Federal Communications Commission and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration as part of their ongoing efforts to keep the nation safe during emergencies and strengthen our resilience against all hazards.
The national EAS is an alert and warning system that can be activated by the president of the United States, if needed, to provide information to the American public during emergencies.
“It has never had to be activated on a nationwide basis,” said Brian Hess, director of the Knox County EMA. However, the National Weather Service, governors, and state and local emergency authorities have used parts of the system to issue more localized emergency alerts such as storm warnings.
“The test is an important exercise,” explained Hess. “It ensures that the system is effective in communicating critical information to the public in the event of a real national emergency,” said Hess. “It will also provide the FCC and FEMA a chance to identify improvements that need to be made to build a modernized and fully accessible Emergency Alert System.”
“The health department and EMA encourage Knox County residents to use this event as a reminder that everyone should have an emergency preparedness kit at home and an emergency plan for themselves, their family and their business,” said Valentino. “With winter storms, there’s always the possibility that we will be without power or unable to leave our homes. People need to be prepared to communicate with one another and have adequate food and shelter.”
Residents are encouraged to visit www.Ready.gov for more information about how to prepare for and stay informed about what to do in the event of an actual emergency.