Saturday, July 01, 2017

Journalism wanted: what are tests of the Alert Ready system testing for?

Working from home, I sometimes have the TV on during the day.  So every once in a while, I see programming get interrupted with "This is a test of the Alert Ready system!", where there program is interrupted with an intrusive beep and the screen turns red, announcing that they're testing the system.  It's similar to this youtube.

What I want to know: what are they testing for? To see if it shows up? Does someone have to look at all the TV channels to see if it's working? And is that why it takes so long?  Or is there more to it than that? What things could possibly go wrong that this test could detect?

I'd love for someone to write an article about this!


laura k said...

In the US it's called the Emergency Broadcast System, and I never knew what is for either. For some reason I imagined it had something to do with nuclear war.

In Canada, do they start with "This is only a test"? Do they end with "If this had been an actual emergency..."?

laura k said...

*what it was for

impudent strumpet said...

In Canada, they start with "This is a test of the Alert Ready System". I don't know how they end it because I always turn the TV off - it's annoying!

I have seen the US one because it would interrupt my Sesame Street when I was a small child, and it instilled in me the fear of nuclear war. Which is particularly interesting, because I didn't actually knowingly know what nuclear war was at the time. (I can't rule out the possibility that adults discussed it in my presence, but if you'd asked me I couldn't have begun to explain.)

Something about that dissonant beep thing and the mid 20th century Cold War graphics with matching announcer voice somehow very clearly communicated to my preschool self that there is a Big Bad Thing That Could Happen That Could Destroy The World. Somehow that beep conveyed to me that the world contains horrors that I can't even begin to imagine.