Nat'l emergency system test not flawless

WASHINGTON, Nov. 9 (UPI) -- The first-ever U.S. Emergency Alert System test Wednesday was not without a few hiccups, including some people saying they heard Lady Gaga instead of a warning.

The New York Times reported while many viewers and listeners heard the emergency tones as intended, others using DirecTV heard the song "Paparazzi" by the pop singer Gaga filter over the airwaves and some Comcast users in Virginia said the QVC network came on before the alert.


The newspaper said the federal agencies running the alert found flaws in the system that caused delays from 30 seconds to almost an hour. Cable and satellite outlets were the most-affected, the Times said.

The Christian Science Monitor said the disclaimer "this is only a test" wasn't uniformly broadcast, as well.

"It's 2012 and our emergency alert system still sounds like a Speak and Spell and looks like an Atari 2600," the online newspaper said one critic wrote on Twitter.

Other tweets expressed concern about the government's ability to control media transmissions and others said they didn't see the test, the Monitor said.

The unprecedented, 30-second test -- meant to air simultaneously over every broadcast, cable and satellite TV, and radio station and network at 2 p.m. EST -- was conducted to allow the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Federal Communications Commission to assess how well the system "would perform its primary function -- alerting the public about a national emergency," FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate and FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said in a statement.


"The various disasters our country has faced this year underscore the need for effective and well-tested emergency alert and warning systems that could be used in a time of real emergency, at a moment's notice," their statement said.

The test did not extend to landline or mobile phones, pagers or the Internet, officials said.

It was the first national test featuring a live "presidential" alert code, instructing TV and radio stations the alert takes priority over all other programming, CNN reported. It would be followed by a presidential address in a real emergency.

In a real emergency, the warning would originate from wherever the president is. On Wednesday, the test originated from a FEMA operations center, officials said.

President Barack Obama was not involved in the test.

State and local communities regularly use the system to notify communities about tornadoes and flash floods, child abductions and other urgent situations.

All previous tests of the 14-year-old system -- which superseded the Emergency Broadcast System, used from 1963 to 1997 -- were done locally or regionally and involved broadcasters' voluntary compliance.

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