“Voluntary Cooperation”… #socs

The word cooperation (and its various forms) always looks to me like it should be pronounced “coop-er-ate.” I’ve seen it spelled co-operation or coöperation so you can tell that the “coop” is actually two syllables, but I wonder how many people get confused by it. That’s the English language for you: thousands of rules, and thousands of exceptions to them. It’s kind of like Federal law.

Which brings me to the topic of emergency broadcasting, one of my favorites because the weekly Emergency Broadcast System tests used to frighten me. The older I get, the funnier I think that is, because the Emergency Broadcast System was pretty much worthless. Most radio and TV stations wouldn’t use it for severe weather conditions, I think for fear that everyone would see the Civil Defense symbol and immediately think we were about to be blown to Kingdom Come. So the only time we were even aware of the existence of the EBS was the one time a week that a station had to do their weekly test, if we happened to be watching.

If you watched the video, you’ll notice that they talk about “voluntary cooperation” with Federal, State and local authorities. As AE5D notes on his page, there was nothing “voluntary” about complying with the law. He’s got copies of all the pages of the FCC Regulations (now obsolete) that discuss the EBS, and nowhere does it state “you can run a weekly test when you feel like it.” Of course, I doubt that they had someone sitting in an office with a radio, listening to or watching a station to ensure that they were doing it. Nothing precluded a station with just writing down “yeah, we did it” on their weekly log that had to be available should an FCC representative show up and demand to see it, except for the threat of legal action if they didn’t (and there was hell to pay if the station said they had and they hadn’t).

Oh the things we do to keep the bureaucrats happy…


Stream of Consciousness Saturday is brought to you each week by Linda Hill and this station. Now a word about Twix candy bars. Chocolate, caramel, and a surprising cookie crunch!

I never found the cookies to be all that crunchy…

23 thoughts on ““Voluntary Cooperation”… #socs

    1. The “new” ones (the EAS tests with the duck quacks at the beginning) aren’t a whole lot better, especially when you left the TV on and they test it at 3 AM. But there isn’t the language that makes you think you’re about to be blown to Kingdom Come.

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    1. Exactly. The old two-tone attention signal (that they still use for everything other than weekly tests) was chosen specifically because of its dissonance. Oddly enough, the melodic tones seem to work in Japan…

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    1. The question is, just how voluntarily do you comply? Well, maybe if voluntary means you have a choice, which you always do: you can choose not to do it and give up your broadcasting license…

      Reminds me of a conversation I had with a flight attendant years ago. This was back in the days when they served meals on airplanes (rather than selling one to you). The flight attendant asked me if I wanted chicken or fish. “Oh, do I have a choice?” He said, “You always have a choice: eat it or don’t.”

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  1. I haven’t noticed any tests lately, but I have heard that awful alarm for severe thunderstorms. They always make me jump for a second. And oh those bureaucrats. They’re the main reason I retired from my old job.

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    1. The tests are just like the alerts for severe thunderstorms. A lot of stations run them overnight now, when you’re probably asleep and aren’t watching or listening to anything. Those “duck quacks” at the start and end are datastreams that get translated by the station’s decoder and tell what the alert is, where it’s for, and when it ends. That same datastream is translated by your weather radio (you DO have a weather radio, don’t you?). And they’re supposed to make you jump, wake up and pay attention. The AMBER alerts are transmitted the same way. The EAS is a lot more useful than anything prior.

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      1. I have gotten a few on my phone, too. It would be nice if they had softer tones for severe thunderstorms and safe the loud obnoxious ones for big emergencies.

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        1. A severe thunderstorm can spawn tornadoes, so it can be kind of a big emergency. I get where you’re coming from, though. Try the FEMA app: that sends a text to your phone and uses a different and less jarring alert tone.

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  2. I was frightened by the emergency broadcast system too. Made me think we were being invaded. My imagination was already pretty vivid. The siren just made it worse.

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    1. I had a nun in grammar school who would have us stand up and say prayers when Chicago tested their air raid sirens every Tuesday at 10:30. That was in the middle of the Cold War. Apparently, when the White Sox won the AL pennant in 1959, the fire commissioner, who was also in charge of the sirens and a big Sox fan, set them off, and scared half the populace. And since the mayor was a big Sox fan, too, he didn’t get in trouble for it.

      There were some stations that really went out of their way to scare you during the EBS tests. Made it sound like “the next time you hear this, it means the Russians are coming and there’s noplace to hide.”

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  3. I remember these but I was never scared just annoyed by them because they took time away from what I was watching. I never got what it really meant, I guess.

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    1. Stations would normally run the EBS tests during commercial breaks, which the stations didn’t like because they’d lose a little over a minute of advertising revenue. The current Emergency Alert System is less intrusive, but it can break in whenever it gets activated, usually with just a crawler, but a lot of cable systems will cut away from whatever’s showing and display a test screen. There was a situation a few years ago where a state Emergency Management agency ran a monthly test (which generally is a pretty high-priority alert) during the last seconds of an NBA playoff game, and although the station has the ability to delay broadcasting the test and message for up to a half hour, they cut away right away, which as you can imagine didn’t sit well with the viewers.

      One night, CBS News broke into the middle of “CSI:NY,” which was still a new show and had a pretty big audience, to announce that Yasser Arafat had died, and spent a good 20 minutes eulogizing him, meaning that all those viewers, most of whom couldn’t have cared less about Arafat, missed the rest of the show. I guess the switchboard at CBS lit up like a Christmas tree, and they were forced to apologize and replay the show a couple of nights later.

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