A nationwide emergency alert system will kick into operation Wednesday, but officials are urging people not to be alarmed — “This is only a test, is the big thing to remember, ” Hill County Disaster and Emergency Services Coordinator Joe Parenteau said Monday.
For the first time ever, an alert system will be used that blankets the entire country, sending out signals to radio and television stations nationwide.
Parenteau said that, while the system has been used and tested on local, regional and state levels, this is the first nationwide use of the system.
The system can be activated by the president to provide information to the American public during emergencies.
Parenteau said the test is being done to make sure the system works as intended, and that people know what it is and how to respond.
“People need to be aware of the system to get their warning, ” he said.
The test is being conducted by the Federal Communications Commission, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration and the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency, with the top priority making sure it works as intended.
The test will be similar to tests already done on local or regional levels, but will involve television and radio stations across the United States, including Alaska, Hawaii, and the territories of Puerto Rico, the U. S. Virgin Islands and American Samoa.
Radio and television broadcasters, cable operators, satellite digital audio radio service providers, direct broadcast satellite service providers and wireline video service providers are required to receive and transmit presidential EAS messages to the public.
The test will start at noon and last up to three-and-a-half minutes.
“Testing a system before it is needed is the best way to determine what works well and what can be done to improve it, ” Ed Tinsley, administrator for Montana Disaster and Emergency Services, said in a press release.
Tinsley said the test will help officials determine how effective the system would be in a national emergency.
“This is a great opportunity for every Montanan to take the time to prepare your homes and family, and consider the consequences of a disaster in your community, ” he added.
Parenteau said the local sirens will not be used in this test. In an actual national emergency, after the president activated the system the sirens likely then would be set off to alert the community as local officials started to assess the situation here and take action.