When not to test an emergency alert system
There’s an interesting confluence of events occurring next week — the first nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System and the flyby of an aircraft-carrier–sized asteroid a mere 200,000 miles overhead. That’s closer than the moon, folks.
I’ve already concluded that although the numerous announcements about the EAS test are designed to warn everyone about the test and avert undue alarm, all the announcements and hoopla might be raising at least as much concern as the test itself will. The FCC website does note: “Although the activation will include an audio message indicating that this is a test, a visual message indicating that ‘this is a test’ may not appear on every television channel, especially for cable subscribers.” Do you suppose they’re afraid of causing an Orson-Welles–like panic?
Okay, I can see it’s prudent to test a system that’s never been tested before. But what event could possibly be massive enough to warrant a nationwide alarm? Even a nuclear attack (knock wood) wouldn’t take out the whole country. And I can’t think of anything that would strike fast enough to necessitate such an alert.
Unless, perhaps, a giant asteroid were veering toward the earth …
You know, if I’d known a large asteroid was going to zip by within spittin’ distance of the earth next week, I think I’d have scheduled a national emergency alert test some other time.