Thank goodness it was only a test. Wednesday’s first-ever nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System, at 2 p.m. Eastern time, showed that there are kinks in the system. Viewers and listeners in many states said they saw and heard the alerts at the scheduled time, but others said they did not, says the New York Times. There was no immediate explanation for the discrepancies, but that was one of the purposes of the test — to find out how well the system would work in an actual emergency.
Certainly, viewers and listeners have grown accustomed to hearing the tones and reminders — “this is just a test” — when the systems are activated locally each week by broadcasters. But government officials said the national system had never been tested before as a whole, nor had it been used in an emergency, allowing the president to address the public. Many of the reported failures affected cable and satellite television subscribers, and some were quite puzzling. Some DirecTV subscribers said their TV sets played the Lady Gaga song “Paparazzi” when the test was under way.