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Public Safety News
Houston/Galveston Regional PIO Network
News Release
Tuesday, November 01, 2011

NATIONWIDE EAS TEST SCHEDULED ON NOVEMBER 9, 2011

Houston --- The federal government will conduct the first-ever, nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System (EAS) at 1:00 p.m. CST on Wednesday, November 9, 2011.  The purpose of the test is to assess the effectiveness and reliability of EAS to alert the entire country during a nationwide emergency.  The test will last approximately three minutes.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will initiate the test from Washington, D.C. to simulate the President's issuance of an Emergency Action Notification (EAN) message for a national emergency, such as a nuclear attack, terrorist incident, or a national disaster.  However, the President's voice will not be broadcast during the November 9th test.

The EAN message will be relayed by 63 Primary Entry Point (PEP) radio stations across the United States, including KTRH-AM 740 in Houston.  In addition, KUHF-FM 88.7 in Houston will broadcast the EAN message when relayed by KTRH-AM 740 or National Public Radio (NPR).  Texas State Network will relay the November 9th test to its 130 affiliates across Texas.

All other AM and FM radio stations, television stations, cable TV, satellite audio and TV systems in the 13-county Houston area are required to monitor KTRH-AM 740, KUHF-FM 88.7, or the National Weather Service so they can voluntarily re-broadcast state and local EAS messages.     

However, FCC rules require all radio, TV, cable and satellite systems nationwide to immediately interrupt their regular programming to broadcast national EAN messages and tests.

The three-minute audio message on both radio and TV will repeat "This is a test" several times, but the scrolling text message at the top of TV screens will read "The Primary Entry Point System has issued an Emergency Action Notification for Washington, DC" to test what a real EAN message would display on TV sets.

To help avert any public confusion about the nationwide EAS test, radio and TV stations will air Public Service Announcements before November 9th to emphasize that the nationwide EAS test is just a drill and not a real emergency.  During the EAS test, TV stations and cable systems are strongly encouraged to display the EAS logo and/or the words "This is a Test" in the middle of the TV screen.

The Greater Harris County 9-1-1 Emergency Network (GHC 9-1-1) has informed its forty 9-1-1 call centers in Harris and Fort Bend Counties about the potential for an increase in calls during the November 9th test.  GHC 9-1-1 reminds the public that 9-1-1 should be used ONLY in emergency situations that require immediate assistance from the police/sheriff, fire department, or an ambulance.

Nonemergency calls to inquire about the test may overwhelm the telephone network at emergency call centers and delay 9-1-1 from receiving calls from citizens reporting real emergencies.  Please help us ensure that callers with actual emergencies can get through to 9-1-1.

City and county Offices of Emergency Management in the Houston area are using the nationwide EAS test as an opportunity to educate homeowners and businesses about regional disaster preparedness and response.  Residents can visit the www.readyhoustontx.gov website to learn how to "Make A Plan, Build a Kit, and Stay Informed".  During an actual emergency, residents can visit the http://www.readyharris.org website to obtain timely and accurate information from the Harris County Joint Information Center (JIC).

In addition, city offices of emergency management also maintain websites that keep their residents informed on preparedness and local emergencies.  Links to city offices of emergency management can be found on www.readyhoustontx.gov and www.readyharris.org.

Fortunately, since the first emergency notification system (CONELRAD) was created by President Truman in 1951, no President has ever had to issue an Emergency Action Notification (EAN) message.  But EAS is frequently used by state and local government officials to quickly warn the public about approaching severe weather and AMBER Alerts for missing children.  EAS can also be activated for other local emergencies such as hurricane evacuations, wildfire evacuations, or hazardous materials releases.

Since October 2007, the Houston/Galveston Office of the National Weather Service has activated EAS for 573 severe thunderstorm warnings, 104 tornado warnings, 91 flash flood warnings, and has issued EAS warnings for hurricanes Ike and Humberto as well as tropical storms Dolly, Eduoard, and Erin.

Since the Houston Regional Amber Plan was created in December 2000, local law enforcement agencies have utilized EAS to issue 110 Amber Alerts for 129 missing children believed to be abducted.  120 of those 129 missing children were located alive for a 93% recovery rate, one of the highest rates nationwide.  Five children were murdered.  Four children are still missing.  Nationwide, a total of 542 missing children have been safely recovered due to Amber Alerts.

The Emergency Alert System for the 13-county Houston area is administered locally by the Houston Area Local Emergency Communications Committee.  The Houston Area LECC is composed of local government officials authorized to activate EAS as well as local broadcasters, satellite and cable operators who can broadcast EAS messages.  The 13 counties in the Houston EAS area are Austin, Brazoria, Chambers, Colorado, Fort Bend, Galveston, Harris, Liberty, Matagorda, Montgomery, San Jacinto, Waller, and Wharton.

FEMA is currently developing an Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) that will add cellular phones, SMS text messages, website and social media as additional warning tools.



Remember 9/11


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