#SoCS: This Is A Test…

These used to freak me out when I was younger…

Really, I’d be sitting there watching cartoons, and all of a sudden this would come on. AAAAAAAAGH! THE WORLD IS ENDING! RUN FOR YOUR LIVES! Oh, never mind, it’s only a test. Damn, scare the hell out of me, why don’t you?

Supposedly, they could use the Emergency Broadcast System not only in the event of nuclear war, but also for more mundane things, like tornadoes, floods, and chemical spills, but they never did that in Chicago. So about all we ever saw of it was the weekly test. Since the EBS was designed to supersede CONELRAD, which sought to confuse bombers using radio and TV signals to home in on cities to attack, there was always that frisson of impending nuclear disaster. They might as well have told us, “If you’re seeing this and we haven’t told you it’s a test, better find an air raid shelter, the ICBM’s are in the air.”

The rule was that TV and radio stations would have to run a test once a week, at “random days and times” from 8 AM to local sunset. Broadcasters hated them, because they took 60 seconds and that was a minute less advertising they could do. Besides, they were a good excuse for people to change stations, and they didn’t want that. They tried to get the FCC to change the rules and allow stations to run their test in the middle of the night, and of course the FCC said “Oh, no, we couldn’t possibly allow that, no no no no no.” So “random dates and times” usually became during the soap operas or cartoons, or really early on Sunday morning, because no one important was watching then.

The EBS is gone now, replaced by the Emergency Alert System. We deal with it a lot during summer, with severe thunderstorms and tornadoes tearing through Georgia with alarming regularity. Broadcasters like the EAS, because they can do their tests overnight, usually in the middle of an infomercial at 3 AM. Serves you right if you fell asleep with the TV on and got a wakeup call…

I could talk about this all day, but I’ll spare you. This time…


As always, this entry was part of Linda Hill’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday, prompted by the word “is.” Head on over to her blog and read the rules, and check out some of the other participants. You can click on the link.

6 thoughts on “#SoCS: This Is A Test…

  1. I remember those alerts. In California there is an annoying sound and then the announcer would say, “This is a test” and give some more information like ” If this were not a test you would be instructed to tune to station X for more information.” It would be irritating if you were in the middle of watching a good program. 🙂


    1. My favorite story was that KAKE, the ABC affiliate in Wichita KS, decided to conduct their EAS test during the last minute of an NBA playoff game. Here’s the story: http://consumerist.com/2008/06/11/abc-tests-the-emergency-alert-system-during-the-last-minute-of-last-nights-nba-finals-game/

      The thing is, a station has an hour to activate a monthly test. They could just as easily have waited until the end of the game and run it then.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. It feels nostalgic to hear that old monotone Emergency test. Nowadays, in our area, they run the EBS test on all the channels at the same time. You can’t get away from it by changing stations.


    1. On cable, the cable system takes over and you can’t change channels even if you want to. Since we “cut the cord” last year, they all come at different times, I noticed.

      Liked by 1 person

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