A Broadcast Engineering reader provides his thoughts on the recent nation-wide EAS test. Did it work? See below.
A few years ago I once commented on an article you had written about the EAS (former EBS) system in the country. You may recall how I reported how I felt the over testing of the system was tantamount to 'crying wolf' and how a lot of the public mostly ignores the alerts even when there is something substantive broadcast.
This last weeks nationwide test failed in my opinion if for nothing else than for the unintelligible quality of the audio that I heard on the several stations that I found carrying the test. I quickly tuned around the band on a device that a consumer would have easy access to - a car radio.
What I heard was the alert tone sequence followed by a very distorted audio feed that was so heavily compressed that the intelligibility of the spoken message was hard to hear. Thankfully I like to think I have a fairly good tuned ear to listen to a communication through a cacophony of noise but were this a real emergency I feel the average person would not be able to hear the message. For this I would give the test a D- at best for the stations that did carry the test and a failure to the 4 stations that continued playing music. For the record I had to travel that day and I was in a town just north of Boston when I observed this.
I hear there is thought of revamping how the alert is delivered with mentions of using the Internet or satellite links. If there was a real emergency don't you think those networks would be at the greatest risk of failure?
So here is my idea ... the audio path from the White House to the respective media outlets must not get a lot of use. I think some program audio should be put on that circuit and let stations down the line listen for and make appropriate adjustments and fixes to improve the quality to make the system more reliable.
Most important - do all of this testing in the studio and not on the air for the public to hear.
Is there any reason why the Presidents weekly radio address can't be disseminated via the same audio path as the EAS system? At least this would exercise the system and there would be more of a reason to be concerned with the quality. Even for those stations that don't take that weekly feed maybe there could be some other content that could be pushed through just to keep that active and the path working?
These steps would not cost anything to implement - which I realize is counter intuitive for government operations.
Regardless of my opinion I am sure you probably have one of your own to share and I would welcome hearing yours. I enjoy reading your columns and welcome the fresh ideas that you frequently bring to the table.
P.S. I'm surprised that some late night comedian didn't suggest 'studying' for the test!