More on the EAS Test Today

I have previously posted about the test scheduled for later today for the nonsensical Emergency Alert System.

There have been several articles about the test and I would like to respond to one in particular:

The national EAS circuit, operated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, allows the president to communicate with the public in an instant. On the president’s signal, FEMA can seize control of the airwaves temporarily and override the signal with the president’s message…

[FEMA Director] Fugate said that several scenarios short of nuclear war could persuade a president to activate the EAS circuit. They include a space-weather event; if a solar flare were detected that could significantly disrupt wireless communications across the country, the president might want to give people notice.

Lets analyze that justification for EAS: Disasters other than nuclear war.

Does anyone think President Bush did a good job in the aftermath of Katrina? President Obama, while campaigning for President, said “10,000 people died in Greensburg.” The actual death toll was 9 and the total population of the town was 1,500.

My point is that Presidents are not experts in disasters. We would have — at best — hours of notice that a major solar flare was threatening earth. By the time it was detected and the threat analyzed, it would take additional hours for the notice to move up the chain of command, the decision be made to have the President announce it, the President to be briefed, and the announcement to be rehearsed — by which time much of the preparation time for the flare would be diminished. Having the President do these things is counterproductive!

NOAA, the same agency that warns of tornadoes, blizzards, and hurricanes, is in charge of monitoring space weather, including solar flares. If a big one is detected, NOAA should simply, and immediately, activate its existing warning system and get the word out as quickly as possible.

What about nuclear attack? Doesn’t that justify EAS? Published reports say the President will not be sticking around the White House to use the EAS if an attack is detected. They say he or she will be moved to the underground shelter at the (appropriately named) Mount Weather.

So, as I told the Kansas City Star (first link above), EAS is a “solution in search of a problem.” We’d be better off abolishing it and saving the taxpayer dollars.

3 thoughts on “More on the EAS Test Today

  1. Why do you think Obama is doing this EAS to start with? There is trouble around the corner! Len Holliday

  2. Mike,

    I have to disagree with you on this one. I have to say that it is interesting to see all of the attention this test has stirred-up, considering those who listen to public radio and TV are exposed to these EAS tests weekly and monthly.

    We know that getting the word out about threats using as many avenues as possible is the best way to alert the greatest number of people. EAS has served that purpose primarily for severe weather threats (tornadoes, hurricanes, etc.), but also is used for Amber Alerts in many areas as well. It can be used to alert people about evacuations or shelter-in-place situations for chemical spils/fires, wildfires, tsunamis, etc.

    NOAA All Hazards Weather Radio (NWR) is an entry point into the EAS system. When a National Weather Service forecaster pushes the button on a tornado warning, for example, the EAS tones transmitted on NWR can activate EAS systems at TV and radio stations. How the stations handle it at that point is variable, but it provides that station the ability to notify their customers of a threat automatically.

    In regard to why this is being tested, why would we not test this system. Why be unprepared? We in the meteorology community preach preparedness all of the time. Think of the outcry there would be if, when this system was needed, if failed because it wasn't tested.

    So instead of critizing the test, we should be encouraging people to understand that, while the need for a national alert from our government or president is extremely small, it is not zero. So, let's test it to make sure it works. It will be painless, if there are problems they can be resolved, and we can all go on with our daily activities. And, maybe the test will better inform people that there are tools out there that can provide them with time-critical information, such as tornado warnings, that give them the opportunity to take action to protect themselves and their loved ones.

  3. Readers: Janice is a friend of mine and a meteorologist for whom I have the greatest respect.

    One difference in our perspective may be because she lives in Dallas where they use the EAS system for tornado and severe thunderstorm warnings and I live in Wichita where they do not.

    I was in Dallas last summer during a day with numerous storm warnings and I kept thinking, "Stop all the nonsense and TELL ME WHERE THE STORM IS." Between all the "Standby, we are activating the Emergency Alert System…" and the "Ehhh Ehhh Ehhh" tones, etc., easily a minute passes between when the warning process starts and when you find out where the tornado is.

    Here in Wichita, they simply tell us where the tornado is and where it is going — with none of the other delay or nonsense.

    The National Weather Service is fond of saying, when it comes to tornadoes, "seconds save lives." Well, the EAS system costs precious seconds and those delays may cost lives.