Glenn Beck discovers the EAS test on November 9th

The third hour of today’s Glenn Beck’s show, with its combined 100+ years of professional broadcasting experience was about the November 9th test of the EAS system.   Glenn began by saying he doesn’t understand this test.   That’s very apparent as well as the moron Pat Grey.   This is a test of the national alert, which has nothing to do with the tests done by individual states.

For the past couple months, the bottom of every page has had the countdown to the test, and points to this blog post from August:

I’ve also written about the EBS/EAS system here:

As I’m typing this, a caller mentions he’s a “ham” (Amateur Radio) operator, and Glenn mentions he recently has bought a ham radio.

What the caller doesn’t know is this EAS test of the national system activation includes the requirement of radio silence by hams (or at least did back in the 1960s)


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9 Responses to Glenn Beck discovers the EAS test on November 9th

  1. Fortenbras says:

    As soon as one of Glen’s researchers finished googleing all of this, Glen will come out as the Expert on the topic and explain how his show was out in front of everyone on the topic. 🙂

    • Parrott says:

      I agree, where has Beck been on this? Art told us a long time ago about the seizing of the radio spectrum . I like being ahead of the curve on things by hanging out here : )

    • Art Stone says:

      Not being a “radio professional” and being about ready to fall asleep, I didn’t type a detailed explanation, but I know lots of the details without using Google as this is a subject of significant interest to me. I’ve read pretty much all the documents within the industry and FCC describing it. I’m sure I’ve written the details about this a number of times, but much of it is buried in the “dead” blogs which I’ll try to dig up.

      The National EAS (and EBS before that) system has had the requirement that the activation alert will seize control of the transmitter for a very long time. The national EBS system was activated once by accident back in the days when the alerts were sent via the news teletype machines. Even though it was not an actual alert, the failure of many stations to know what to do (or disregarding the alert because they “knew” it must be a mistake”) clued in the government that having a human in the decision process would mean it wouldn’t work if actually neeeded.

      In Chicago in 2007, WGN accidentally activated the national alert in their region – it was designed to test a new version of the EAS receiver. While it was an accident, the failure of large numbers of stations to activate was a strong hint that in the event the national EAS was ever used, the system was going to fail miserably. That accident motivated the FCC and DHS to perform a national test.

      While the same equipment is used, the “This is a test” messages Glenn and Pat are familiar with are done by each of the States using the state system. The national and state EAS use the same equipment, but are completely seperate, which is why the national system needs to be tested.

      State and local EAS messages (like tornados, the dam on the river just broke, there is a big chemical spill) are completely voluntary. Stations can choose not to air them or record them and play them later. The EAS equipment has settings that allow the station to set their “rule” about if and how the tranmitter is taken over. The only mandatory state alerts are the once a month tests, which are announced for the entire year well ahead of test – which largely defeats the purpose of testing.

      Each state with a state EAS (under the control of that state’s governor) have a Primary State station, and Level 1 and Level 2 stations that relay the messages. Messages can be encoded to only activate in a part of the state (usually by county).

      The mechanics of the national EAS alerts are entirely different. There are stations designated as “Primary Entry Points” (PEP) that are directly connected to the EAS system in Washington DC – mostly the old 50kW AM clear channel stations. In the early 1960s, they still dominated radio and the airwaves and had the reach to cover most of the US population. Originally (before the EBS system) activation of the National Alert required every station to turn off the transmitter except fot the official government radio stations. They official Civil Defense stations would all switch their transmitter to one frequency (580 khz if my memory is right). Car radios of that era (1962ish) had a special Civil Defense logo on the dial on the car radios. AM transmitters are designed for a specific frequency and can’t be “changed” like that, so the idea of a common frequency died quickly as it was technically unworkable, and with FM radio growing in popularity no longer made any sense. FM stations can’t reach very far even on high power.

      When the White House “presses the button”, the PEP stations activate and send out the tones and encoded message that “this is a national EAS message”. The EAS devices in every radio and TV station constantly “listen” to their upstream EAS station for the activation tone and message type.

      Because EAS relies on hearing the alert over the air from another radio station (probably a bad design choice in 2011 – this isn’t the 1960s), there is a secondary network of stations that listen to the PEP. They then activate and get broader coverage so every radio (and TV) station in the country is activated at once. Because over the air TV is dying, the FCC has also forced the satellite and cable TV carriers and Sirius/XM to particpate in EAS.

      Why 3 and a half minutes and not 30 or 60 seconds? The national alert is limited deliberately to a maximum of 5 minutes so it can’t be used by a “tyrant” to shut down all communications using the technology. It can’t seize all the stations for more time than that.

      Because this is a (hopefully) one time test and announced months in advance, engineers WILL be in the stations to see if things worked, and at least have a little time to detect and fix problems if they come up. If a PEP fails to activate, then the test will fail for everyone downstream that depends on that PEP. Doing the test on a weekday during the day ensures that people will be at the radio station to log the test results and hopefully fix problems before the test ends. Doing the test during the day has a really big problem though – most of the PEPs are AM stations that change their pattern after the sun goes down. Most are no longer omnidirectional 50 kw at night – many switch to a directional pattern. This could mean that the night time network would fail miserably and this test will never know that.

      I think the EAS is a placebo – it was done to stir up fear during the “cold war” – not to solve an actual problem. In the event there was an actual emergency that warranted using the system, the government will not activate it. Telling 300 million people “Don’t Panic!” is a really bad idea. The highways will clog with everyone trying to “escape” making it impossible for public safety people to do anything . If DHS discovered a nuclear bomb that was going to go off in 15 minutes, but don’t know where it is, the last thing they’re going to do is announce that.

      9/11 was as close as we’ve ever come to having a reason for EAS. The scope of how many planes were involved, what buildings in what cities were targeted, and who was behind it were not known. Authorities in Chicago thought the Sears Tower and the John Hancock tower might be targets and didn’t need Washington DC to tell them what to do. Even the regional EAS system in New York City was never activated. The people on the TV knew more about situation than the people in the White House (unless you’re Alex Jones and think President Bush actually planned the 9/11 attack aned knew it was coming). Having an “official voice” tell you what was going on, when they were telling you things you already watched on TV half an hour earlier would not reassure people that things are under control.

      Ever since the early days, I’ve included the EAS logo on those stations that are PEP and secondary stations. If you hover your mouse over the logo, it will show you the details. I haven’t maintained the list, so a few are probably out of date.

      • Art Stone says:

        The state of Nevada already did a “dry run” of the national test to identify problems and test out the testing methodology and reporting mechanism. the NAB is fully behind this – not only because the FCC is basically their creation, but fining small stations for not knowing how to do EAS tests is a big weapon the NAB has to keep competition out of the marketplace. LPFM stations are required to have this equipment, even though they only reach a maximum range of 5 miles and aren’t required to be on the air all the time. Forcing them to buy and maintain an expensive EAS device is nothing but a way to discourage them from being formed. LPFM stations are non-profit ventures and buying and maintaining an EAS device is a major part of the startup expense for an LPFM station.

  2. Art Stone says:

    The FCC and DHS are working very hard to make it a requirement that they can take over control of your cell phones.

    It will be interesting to know how many stations have the EAS gear wired into the transmitter after the streaming feed – meaning that while EAS will take over the transmitter, their stream may not have the EAS message but be streaming the “regular” programming or silence.

  3. Great job on the EAS overview, Art. I can picture in my mind two “Conelrad” symbols (triangle in a circle) on old car radios and I’m pretty sure one of them was 1240.

    And now I’m looking at an old Conelrad poster on Wikipedia. It shows 640 and 1240 as the frequencies.

  4. jpaulwede says:

    i think the historical aspects of the EAS and Civil Defense in general is interesting. For the most part, “civil defense” was a farce designed to show that the government was trying to do something about a nuclear war. I remember the old EBS tests on TV all the time, and I was reasonably sure that I would never hear the real thing unless we were about to get nuked by the USSR. But your explanation about not scaring the public makes perfect sense. Might as well let them disappear into the flashes…

    • Art Stone says:

      Yes – and keep the roads open so the government could reach the shelter underneath the Greenbriar Hotel in West Virginia before the blast.

      My cousin actually went there a couple weeks ago to take the tour. It turned out to be a dud. In the last few years, the place was sold and most of the underground nuclear blast shelter is now converted to a business that does secure data backup for businesses.

  5. Piquerist says:

    Instead of not listening to GB, let’s get together, track him down and beat the living hell out of him.

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