First EAS nationwide test will lack captioning, say federal officials

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This Wednesday will be the first nationwide test of the new Emergency Alert System, federal officials are reminding broadcasters and the public.

The EAS requires public television broadcasters, cable television systems, wireless cable systems, satellite digital audio radio service providers, and direct broadcast satellite providers to provide the president the ability to address the American public during a national emergency.

The test will last approximately 30 seconds and commence at Nov. 9, 2:00 p.m., Eastern time. It will not involve landline or mobile phones or other infrastructure such as power grids.

An already-identified weakness of the altering system is that it lacks open or closed captioning, translations, or other tools to supplement the audio portion of the test, Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Craig Fugate and Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski said in a joint Nov. 4 joint letter.

"Consequently, many viewers, particularly cable television subscribers, will see the emergency alert on the screen that is accompanied by an audio explanation that 'this is only a test,' but may not see a corresponding visual message that 'this is only a test,'" the two agency heads say.

"Organizations that serve people with disabilities or people with limited English proficiency should be aware that they may receive requests for information or assistance from broadcasters or other communications service providers and emergency managers in the days leading up to, during, and after the test," they add.

The test will encompass all 50 states of the United States and Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and American Samoa.

For more:
- read Fugate's and Genachowski's open letter on the FEMA blog
- go to the FCC EAS website

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