When ‘Disaster’ Is a Kind of Success

Paul McLane is U.S. editor in chief.
Some broadcast technical people throw around the word “disaster” to describe this week’s national EAS test.

This wasn’t a disaster. People dying because of a broken alerting system would be a disaster. Kids molested at a university athletic facility is a disaster. Let’s keep things in perspective.

The obvious technical problems that occurred with this test serve a significant purpose: to point up flaws in a system so that it will work when it must.

I associate myself with a sentiment expressed by Jerry Mathis, who works for Clear Channel Radio in Tupelo, Miss., writing on the SBE’s EAS listserv:

“From what I’m reading, in most parts of the country the test succeeded: the EAS units detected the alert, relayed the audio content they were supplied, and then returned to normal programming. *That*, in my book, is a successful test of the system, the audio problems notwithstanding.

“This is what **tests** are for! We’ve never had one on this scale. Now we’ve had one, and we see where the problems are. And I agree there are plenty.”

He and others predict that regulators will conduct another test along these lines in the months ahead. “Given that there are going to be things needed such as firmware upgrades written and installed, and some procedures investigated and changed, and undoubtedly some bad equipment replaced, I’m going to stick my neck out and say we’ll be doing this again in about a year. And I’ll predict that when it does, it will go a LOT better!”

Having said that, the EAS test turned up plenty of problems that are only just beginning to be sifted and analyzed. We’ll have lots to talk about on the EAS front in the days and weeks ahead.



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