This is a test, you have been warned. The FCC has scheduled the first nationwide mandatory EAS test for November 9th, 2011 at 2pm EST (1900 UTC). According to James A. Barnett, Jr., Chief, Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau:
For the test, FEMA will trigger the EAS “cascade” architecture by transmitting the EAS code used for national level emergencies to the first level of broadcast stations in the national-level of the EAS, which in turn will rebroadcast the alert to the general public, as well as to the next level of EAS participants monitoring them. This should continue through all levels of the system until the alert has been distributed throughout the entire county.
Since this date is beyond the CAP deadline of September 30, 2011, it seems like CAP would be the distribution method, but there is not nothing I can find to verify that. The above paragraph makes it sound like the PEP system might be used.
This will be an interesting evolution for a number of reasons. If the EAS system fails to operate as planned after giving five months warning for a nationwide test, it would point toward a fundamental design flaw in the system. A more realistic test of the EAS system would involve perhaps one hour’s notice and then trigger the event. Notice should be given so that broadcast station personnel can answer questions from the listening and viewing public.
Then there is the EAS EAN protocol itself. There are many that feel, rightly or wrongly, that the federal government should not be able to take control of privately owned broadcast stations and cable systems for any reason. The way that the EAS encoder/decoder units are now required to be wired into the audio air chain means it would be very hard to override any mandatory alert, such as an EAN if there were a reason to do that. There have been several instances of false alerts, WGN-AM being the most recent, where programming on downstream broadcast and cable systems was disrupted for several minutes.
So, save the date. It will no doubt be interesting to see how this all works.