Emergency Alert System

The Emergency Alert System (EAS) is a national warning system in the United States designed to allow authorized officials to broadcast emergency alerts and warning messages to the public via cable, satellite, or broadcast television, and both AM/FM and satellite radio.

Emergency Alert System
TypeEmergency warning system
United States
TV stationsAll broadcast television stations and cable systems
Radio stations77 designated Primary Entry Point (PEP) stations. All commercial radio stations
Broadcast area
Varies; nationwide for national activation, limited to 31 counties (and equivalents) or states at a time for regional activation
Launch date
January 1, 1997
ReplacedEmergency Broadcast System

The EAS became operational on January 1, 1997, after being approved by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in November 1994,[1] replacing the Emergency Broadcast System (EBS). Its main improvement over the EBS, and perhaps its most distinctive feature, is its application of a digitally encoded audio signal known as Specific Area Message Encoding (SAME), which is responsible for the "screeching" or "chirping" sounds at the start and end of each message. This signal encodes locations an alert applies to, useful for specialized encoding and decoding equipment at broadcasting stations to automatically filter alert messages that do not apply to the area and to relay messages that do.

Like the EBS, the system is primarily designed to allow the President of the United States to address the country via all radio and television stations in the event of a national emergency. Despite this, neither the system nor its predecessors have been used in this manner. The ubiquity of news coverage in these situations, such as during the September 11 attacks, has been credited to making usage of the system unnecessary or redundant.[2] In practice, it is used at a regional scale to distribute information regarding imminent threats to public safety, such as severe weather situations (including flash floods and tornadoes), AMBER Alerts, and other civil emergencies.

It is jointly coordinated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The EAS regulations and standards are governed by the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau of the FCC. All broadcast television, broadcast and satellite radio stations, as well as multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs), are required to participate in the system.

The EAS is a front-end to the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS), which coordinates the distribution of alert information via multiple channels including the EAS, such as Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA), using the Common Alerting Protocol (CAP).[3]

Technical conceptEdit

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

A Sage EAS ENDEC unit

The  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.

There are 77 radio stations designated as National Primary Stations in the Primary Entry Point (PEP) System to distribute presidential messages to other broadcast stations and cable systems.[4]

The National Emergency Message (formerly known as the Emergency Action Notification) is the notice to broadcasters that the president of the United States or their designee will deliver a message over the EAS via the PEP system.[5] The government has stated that the system would allow a president to speak during a national emergency within 10 minutes.[6][7]

List of Primary Entry Point stations[8]
Operational area Station Citations
National NPR, PRN, SXM
United States Virgin Islands WSTA [9]
Puerto Rico WKAQ [10]
Maine WGAN [11]
NH, VT, MA, RI WBZ [12][13][14][15]
Connecticut WTIC [16]
NYC, New Jersey WABC [17]
Northeast New York WROW
South Central New York WBNW-FM [17]
North Central New York WHEN
Western New York WHAM [17]
Delaware, Eastern PA WTEL, WHYY-FM [18]
Western Pennsylvania KDKA [19]
West Virginia WCHS [20]
Maryland WBAL [21]
District of Columbia WFED [22]
Eastern Virginia WTAR
Central Virginia WRXL [23]
Western Virginia WPLY
Eastern North Carolina WSFL-FM
Central North Carolina WQDR-FM [24]
Western North Carolina WBT
South Carolina WCOS-FM [25]
Georgia WMAC, WSRV [26]
North Florida WOKV [27]
Central Florida WFLF [27]
South Florida WAQI [27]
Alabama WJOX [28]
Mississippi WMSI-FM
East Tennessee WJCW, WJXB-FM [29]
Middle TN, SW Indiana WSM [29][30]
West Tennessee WREC [29]
Kentucky, SW Ohio, SE IN WLW [31][32]
Northeast Ohio WTAM [32]
Michigan WJR [33]
NW IN, Northern Illinois WLS [30][34]
Southern IL, Eastern Missouri KMOX [30][35]
Wisconsin WTMJ [36]
Minnesota WCCO [37]
Iowa WHO [38]
Western Missouri, Kansas WHB [35]
Arkansas KAAY
Southeast Louisiana WWL [39]
Northwest Louisiana KWKH
Central Texas KLBJ [40]
North Texas WBAP, KSCS [40]
Southeast Texas KTRH [40]
West Texas KROD [40]
Oklahoma KRMG
Nebraska KRVN [41]
North Dakota KFYR [42]
Montana KERR [43]
Wyoming KTWO [44]
Colorado, South Dakota KOA [45]
New Mexico KKOB
Arizona KFLT [46]
Utah KSL [47]
Idaho KBOI
Northern Nevada KKOH
San Diego area KOGO [48]
Southern California KFI, KNX [48]
Central California KMJ [48]
Northern California KCBS [48]
Hawaii HEMA [49]
American Samoa WVUV-FM
Guam and Northern Marianas KTWG
Oregon KOPB-FM, KPNW [50]
Washington KIRO [51]
Alaska KFQD [52]

Primary Entry Point stationsEdit

The National Public Warning System, also known as the Primary Entry Point (PEP) stations, are a network of 77 radio stations that are, in coordination with FEMA, used to originate emergency alert and warning information to the public before, during, and after incidents and disasters. 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.[53][54][55]

Beginning with WJR-Detroit and WLW-Cincinnati in 2016, FEMA began the process of constructing transportable studio shelters at the transmitters of 33 PEP stations, which feature broadcasting equipment, emergency provisions, a rest area, and an air filtration system. NPWS project manager Manny Centeno explained that these shelters were designed to "[expand] the survivability of these stations to include an all hazards platform, which means chemical, biological, radiological air protection and protection from electromagnetic pulse."[53][54][55]

Communication linksEdit

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.[56]

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.

EAS headerEdit

Because the header lacks error detection codes, it is repeated three times for redundancy. 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 attention tone, which lasts between 8 and 25 seconds, depending on the originating station. The tone is  1,050 Hz  on a NOAA Weather Radio station. On commercial broadcast stations, a  "two-tone"  attention signal of 853 Hz and 960 Hz sine waves is used instead, the same signal used by the older Emergency Broadcast System. These tones have become infamous, and can be considered both frightening and annoying by viewers; in fact, the two tones, which form approximately the interval of a just major second at an unusually high pitch, were chosen specifically for their ability to draw attention, due to their 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.[57][full citation needed] Like the EBS, the attention signal is followed by a voice message describing the details of the alert.

The message ends with 3 bursts of the AFSK "EOM", or End of Message, which is the text NNNN, preceded each time by the binary 10101011 calibration.


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

Under a 2006 executive order issued by George W. Bush, the U.S. government was instructed to create "an effective, reliable, integrated, flexible, and comprehensive" public warning system. This was accomplished via expansions to the aforementioned PEP network, and the development of the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS)—a national aggregator and distributor of alert information using the XML-based Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) and an internet network. IPAWS can be used to distribute alert information to EAS participants, supported mobile phones (Wireless Emergency Alerts), and other platforms.[58]

Under an FCC report and order issued in 2007, EAS participants would be required to migrate to digital equipment supporting CAP within 180 days of the specification's adoption by FEMA. This officially occurred September 30, 2010, but the deadline was later delayed to June 30, 2012 at the request of broadcasters.[59]

The FCC has established that IPAWS is not a full substitute for the existing SAME protocol, as it is vulnerable to situations that may make internet connectivity unavailable. Therefore, broadcasters must convert CAP messages to legacy SAME headers to enable backwards compatibility with the existing "daisy chain" method of EAS distribution, providing a backup distribution path.[59][60]

In December 2021, the FCC issued a notice of proposed rulemaking seeking to prioritize the display of alert audio and text from CAP messages, in order to provide higher quality audio (rather than simulcasting the audio off-air from a radio station) and improve parity between the visual display and alert audio for the benefit of the hard of hearing.[61] The rules were enacted in September 2022.[62]

Station requirementsEdit

The FCC requires all broadcast stations and multichannel video programming distributors (MVPD), hereafter "EAS participants", 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. Participants are to retain the latest version of the EAS handbook.

EAS participants are required by federal law to relay National Emergency Messages (EAN, formerly Emergency Action Notification) immediately (47 CFR Part 11.54).[63] Broadcasters 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. In practice, television stations with local news departments will usually interrupt regularly-scheduled programming during newsworthy situations (such as severe weather) to provide extended coverage.[64]

If possible, EAS participants must transmit the audio,[62] and (where applicable) a visual display containing the extended text, from the associated CAP message.[59][60]

EAS participants are required 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 computer.

System testsEdit

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.[57][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 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.[57][65] 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 Indianapolis 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.

In July 2018, in response to the aftermath of the false missile alert in Hawaii earlier in the year (which was caused by operator error during an internal drill protocol), the FCC announced that it would take steps to promote public awareness and improve efficiency of the system, including requiring safeguards to prevent distribution of false alarms, the ability to authorize "live code" tests—which would simulate the process and response to an actual emergency, and authorizations to use the EAS tones in public service announcements that promote awareness of the system.[66][67]

Nationwide testsEdit

On February 3, 2011, the FCC announced plans and procedures for national EAS tests, which involve all television and radio stations connected to the EAS, as well as all cable and satellite services in the United States. They are not 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.[68][69] The national test would transmit and relay an Emergency Action Notification on November 9, 2011 at 2:00 p.m. EST.[70][71]

The FCC found that only half of the participants received the message via IPAWS, and some "failed to receive or retransmit alerts due to erroneous equipment configuration, equipment readiness and upkeep issues, and confusion regarding EAS rules and technical requirements", and that participation among low-power broadcasters was low. To reduce viewer confusion, the FCC stated that future national tests would be delivered under the new event code "National Periodic Test" ("NPT"), and list "United States" as its location.[72][73]

A second national test, the first classified as an NPT, occurred on September 28, 2016 as part of National Preparedness Month.[74][75] A third national periodic test occurred on September 27, 2017.[76]

The fourth NPT occurred on October 3, 2018 (delayed from September 20, 2018, due to Hurricane Florence). It was preceded by the first mandatory wireless emergency alert test.[77][78][79]

The fifth NPT occurred on August 7, 2019, and moved up from past years to prevent it from occurring during the heart of the Atlantic hurricane season. The test focused exclusively on distribution to broadcast outlets and television providers via the primary entry point network to gauge the efficiency of alert distribution in the event the internet cannot be used.[80][81]

The sixth NPT was postponed to 2021 amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic "out of consideration for the unusual circumstances and working conditions for those in the broadcast and cable industry."[82] The sixth test occurred on August 11, 2021, at 2:20 PM EDT.[83] This test involved the WEA system alongside television and radio.

As of 2022, as part of a clarification and streamlining of terminology used in messages, further NPTs will now be referred to in the test message as a "Nationwide Test of the Emergency Alert System" issued by the United States Government.[84] On May 3, 2022, it was announced that the seventh NPT would not take place during 2022, and instead occur in early 2023.[85]

Additions and proposalsEdit

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), Storm Surge Warning (SSW) and Storm Surge Watch (SSA).

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.

In November 2020, Congress passed the Reliable Emergency Alert Distribution Improvement (READI) Act.[86] First sponsored by Hawaii Senator Brian Schatz in response to the Hawaii false missile alert, it amends the Warning, Alert, and Response Network (WARN) Act to require distribution of wireless alerts issued by the administrator of FEMA, and commands the FCC to establish a means of reporting false alerts, encourage the establishment of State Emergency Communications Committees (SECC) that would meet annually to evaluate their EAS plans, require the repetition of alerts surrounding "emergencies of national significance", and open an inquiry into the feasibility of implementing the EAS on internet-related services.[87][88][89][90][91][92]


The EAS can only be used to relay audio messages that preempt all programming; as the intent of an Emergency Action Notification is to serve as a "last-ditch effort to get a message out if the president cannot get to the media", it can easily be made redundant by the immediate and constant coverage that major weather events and other newsworthy situations—such as, most prominently, the September 11 attacks in 2001—receive from television broadcasters and news channels. Following the attacks, then-FCC chairman Michael K. Powell cited "the ubiquitous media environment" as justification for not using the EAS in their immediate aftermath. Glenn Collins of The New York Times acknowledged these limitations, noting that "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", and that using it would have actually hindered the availability of live coverage from media outlets.[2][93]

Following the tornado outbreak of March 3, 2019, Birmingham, Alabama NWS meteorologist Kevin Laws told CNN that he, personally, wished that alerts could be updated in real-time in order to reflect the unpredictable nature of weather events, noting that the storm system's unexpected change in trajectory towards Lee County resulted in only a nine-minute warning (the resulting tornado would kill 23 people).[87]

The trend of cord cutting has led to concerns that viewers' lessened use of broadcast media in favor of streaming video services would inhibit their ability to receive emergency information (notwithstanding availability of alerts on mobile phones).[87][88] The READI Act called for an inquiry into the distribution of alerts via internet platforms.[87]


False alarmsEdit

  • On February 1, 2005 in Connecticut, an alert was mistakenly issued calling for the immediate evacuation of the entire state. The alert contained no specific detail on why it had been issued. The message was broadcast due to operator error while conducting an unannounced, but scheduled statewide test. A study conducted following the incident reported that at least 11% of residents actually saw the warning live, and that 63% of those surveyed were "a little or not at all concerned"—citing a suspicious lack of detail in the message, which a legitimate alert would include. Only 1% of those surveyed actually attempted to leave the state. Connecticut State Police did not receive any calls related to the incident.[94][95][96]
  • On June 26, 2007 at 7:35 a.m. CDT, an Emergency Action Notification was accidentally issued in Illinois, when a new satellite receiver at the state's EOC was accidentally connected to a live system before final internal testing of the new delivery path had been completed. The alert was followed by dead air, and then audio from designated station 720 WGN in Chicago being simulcast across almost every television and radio station in the Chicago area and throughout much of Illinois. A confused Spike O'Dell, host of the station's morning show at the time, was heard on-air wondering "what that beeping was all about".[97][98]
  • On May 19, 2010, NOAA Weather Radio 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.[99]
  • On September 3, 2016, in the wake of Tropical Storm Hermine, an alert was displayed on television calling for the immediate evacuation of the entirety of Suffolk County, abruptly ending with the incomplete sentence "This is an emergency message from". About 15 minutes after the original message was sent, the alert was re-issued with an addendum clarifying that the alert was actually calling for a voluntary evacuation of Fire Island—a barrier island of Long Island. Officials cited an error in the county's Code Red system; while the correct message was entered into the system, an error processing an abbreviated message for television resulted in the error.[100][101]
  • On May 23, 2017, at around 8:55 p.m. EDT, a Nuclear Power Plant Warning was issued for the Hope Creek and Salem Nuclear Power Plants. The alert was issued for Salem and Cumberland counties in New Jersey. In a statement by the New Jersey State Police, it was a test message, intended for a small group of emergency management personnel who were participating in the test. Due to a coding error, the message was publicly broadcast. This would happen again, in July 2022.[102]
  • On August 15, 2017 at approximately 12:25 a.m. ChST, Guam stations KTWG and KSTO transmitted a civil danger warning for the island; Guam Homeland Security described the message, which interrupted programming on the stations, and was received on television by some viewers, as being an "unauthorized test" of the EAS. The incident's impact was strengthened, as North Korea had threatened the launch of ballistic missiles towards Guam only a few days beforehand. Numerous calls to 911 operators and the Department of Homeland Security were made following the broadcast.[103][104]
On January 13, 2018, a false alarm was issued warning of a missile threat to Hawaii.

Cybersecurity breachesEdit

EAS equipment has been the subject of various cyberattacks, caused primarily by participants using insecure or factory default passwords on their encoders and decoders, and outdated software containing unpatched vulnerabilities. On multiple occasions, federal government departments have warned that failure to employ secure passwords and keep software updated made EAS equipment vulnerable to such attacks, which could result in disruptions such as false alerts.[111][112][113][114]

  • In February 2013, the EAS equipment of several stations in Great Falls, Montana and Marquette, Michigan were breached to play a false alert allegedly warning of a zombie apocalypse, using the lines "Civil authorities in your area have reported that the bodies of the dead are rising from the graves and attacking the living" from the Anthrax song "Fight 'Em 'Til You Can't". It was identified that the attack had come from an "overseas" source. Furthermore, the broadcasters had neglected to change the factory default logins or passwords on their equipment. 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.[115][116][117][112][113]
    • In a related incident, WIZM-FM in La Crosse, Wisconsin accidentally triggered the EAS on television station WKBT-DT by airing a recording of the false message during its morning show. The relayed audio included the hosts' reactions and laughter to the clip.[118]
  • On February 28, 2017, WZZY in Winchester, Indiana was hacked in a nearly-identical manner, playing the same "dead bodies" audio from the February 2013 incidents. The incident prompted a public response from the Randolph County Sheriff's Department clarifying that there was no actual emergency.[119][120]
  • In January 2020, Security Ledger published an investigation finding that at least 50 EAS decoders by Digital Alert Systems had not been patched for a security vulnerability (use of a shared SSH key) found by IOActive in 2013.[114]
  • On February 20, 2020, the EAS equipment of Washington-based provider Wave Broadband was hacked, causing approximately 3,000 customers in Jefferson County to receive several false alerts (including a "Radiological Hazard Warning"), which contained irrelevant messages (including one suggesting that the provider change its passwords) and alert audio referencing internet memes and websites.[121][122] On March 2 and 3, 2020, a legitimate Required Monthly Test was displayed with a message ("AIGHT IM DONE U CAN REST NOW. MR GERDE WAS HERE") that had also appeared in the hack: a company official stated that this was a remnant of the attack that had not yet been removed.[123][124]

Tone usage outside of alertsEdit

To protect the integrity of the system, and prevent false activations, the FCC prohibits the use of actual or simulated EAS/WEA tones and attention signals outside of genuine alerts, tests, or authorized public service announcements, especially when they are used "to capture audience attention during advertisements; dramatic, entertainment, and educational programs" (even if the footage is documentation of an event where an actual alert was issued).[125] Broadcasters who misuse the tones may be sanctioned (including being required to partake in compliance measures) and fined.[125]

  • Tones from the EAS were used in the trailer for the 2013 film Olympus Has Fallen; cable providers were fined $1.9 million by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on March 3, 2014 for misuse of EAS tones.[126] An event similar to this previously occurred in November 2013, when TBS was fined $25,000 for the use of EAS tones in a Conan advertisement.[127]
  • During the October 24, 2014 episode of the syndicated radio show The Bobby Bones Show, host Bobby Bones played audio from the 2011 national test as part of a rant about a genuine test from Nashville's Fox affiliate, WZTV, that interrupted Game 2 of the 2014 World Series on October 22. The errant Emergency Action Notification was relayed to some broadcasters and cable systems—particularly those not configured to reject EAN messages that did not match the current date. On May 19, 2015, iHeartMedia, who distributes the show and owns its flagship station WSIX-FM, was fined $1 million for the incident. The company was also ordered to implement a three-year compliance plan to avoid any further incidents, including removing all EAS tones or similar-sounding noises from its audio production libraries.[128][129]
  • From August 4 to 6, 2016, Tegna, Inc.-owned NBC affiliate WTLV in Jacksonville, Florida aired an ad several times during NBC's primetime coverage of the 2016 Summer Olympics produced by the marketing department of the National Football League's Jacksonville Jaguars featuring out-of-sequence EAS tones over Jaguars training camp footage and a voiceover noting "this is not a test, this is an emergency broadcast transmission...seek shelter immediately", along with the on-screen text "the storm is coming". The ad aired four times before station compliance authorities pulled the advertisement after the local news industry blog FTVLive criticized the station for carrying it, especially during the peak of the Atlantic hurricane season. FTVLive's piece would be noted by the FCC in their decision against WTLV rendered on May 30, 2017, when it was given a $55,000 fine for carrying the offending Jaguars ad.[130][131]
  • The FCC issued several fines relating to EAS tone usage in August 2019, including ABC being fined $395,000 for using wireless emergency alert tones multiple times during a Jimmy Kimmel Live sketch, AMC Networks being fined $104,000 for using the tones in The Walking Dead episode "Omega", Discovery Inc. being fined $68,000 for including footage of an actual WEA activation during a Lone Star Law episode filmed during Hurricane Harvey, and Meruelo Group was fined $61,000 for including an EAS-like tone during a radio advertisement for KDAY and KDEY-FM's morning show.[125]
  • On September 9, 2019, the FCC proposed a $272,000 fine against CBS for using simulated EAS tones in the Young Sheldon episode, "A Mother, A Child, and a Blue Man's Backside".[132] CBS defended the statement, saying that the tones' usage was a "dramatic portrayal", and that it was an "integral part of the storyline about a family's visceral reaction to a life-threatening emergency". The show's sound editors achieved the effect by downloading EAS tones from YouTube and modifying the volume of the tone. CBS passed the edited tone through three quality rooms equipped with EAS decoders and prescreened the episode to make sure it did not trigger an actual alert. Also, the show's dialogue was used to obscure some elements of the alert. However, the FCC insisted that the modified tone still sounded like a normal EAS tone, despite the volume being lowered and the tone being cut short in duration. It also said that the prescreening process did not excuse an unauthorized usage of the EAS tones.[133]
  • On April 7, 2020, the FCC proposed a $20,000 fine against New York City radio station WNEW-FM, for using the attention signal during its morning show on October 3, 2018 as part of a skit discussing the National Periodic Test held later that day.[134]
  • In January 2023, the FCC proposed a $504,000 fine against Fox Corporation for using EAS tones during a promo broadcast during Fox NFL Sunday in November 2021.[135]

In an opposite move, in 2013 the FCC granted a one-year waiver for a PSA pertaining to the Wireless Emergency Alerts system, with assurance that the tones used in the PSA contained a different set of codes designed not to activate EAS receivers.[136]

Testing errorsEdit

  • On October 19, 2008, KWVE-FM in San Clemente, California accidentally initiated a Required Monthly Test when it meant to conduct a Required Weekly Test. Furthermore, an operator aborted the test mid-way through the broadcast (failing to broadcast the end-of-message tone), causing all area outlets to broadcast KWVE-FM's programming until those stations took their equipment offline.[137] On September 15, 2009, the FCC fined the station's owner, Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, $5,000. 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 commission could have handled the matter better.[138] 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.[139]
  • On November 9, 2011, the first National EAS Test was conducted. Many reported visuals or audio missing, and in the case of DirecTV, Lady Gaga's song "Paparazzi" was heard.[140][141]
  • On September 28, 2016, an emergency alert was broadcast by WKTV in Utica, New York that contained a Hazardous Materials Warning for the entire United States. The message contained a non-sequitur quote from the Dr. Seuss book Green Eggs and Ham, "Would you. Could you. On a train?" WKTV apologized and stated that the alert was "an automated test [from FEMA] which was not intended for public display." A FEMA representative stated that its decoders had been mistakenly "configured to poll a test and development message aggregator instead of or in addition to the production message aggregator", with the test server having used the Green Eggs and Ham quote as placeholder text. The error was also connected to conspiracy theories surrounding a train crash in New Jersey that occurred the next day, which claimed that the alert was a forewarning of the incident.[142]
  • On September 21, 2017, a technical glitch in another scheduled test by KWVE caused the end-of-message tone to be omitted, causing regional participants (particularly Charter and Cox Cable systems in Orange County) to simulcast a portion of Chuck Swindoll's Insight for Living program. Some viewers speculated that the system had been hacked, as the portion of the program relayed (where Swindoll was discussing the Bible verse 2 Timothy 3:1, and stated, "Realize this, extremely violent times will come.") could be insinuated out of context as discussing an impending apocalypse.[143][144][145]
  • On April 20, 2023, Florida residents were awakened between 4:35 and 5:00 AM after a test was sent out to their phones. The government of Florida subsequently apologized for this, stating it was sent by mistake, and that it was meant to be a TV test instead of sending out a notification. Many users spread this through Reddit and Twitter. [146]

See alsoEdit


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