Emergency Broadcast System: This is Only a Test

Admittedly, I’ll date myself by saying this, but I recall as a small child the drills to practice for a nuclear attack and the sirens on the playground. It’s crazy how we grew up with these things and didn’t think about the meaning of them. It’s like fire drills in school…just an excuse to stop class and go outside in the sunshine with your buddies. The Pledge of Allegiance in school? Part of the morning routine done with as much enthusiasm as brushing one’s teeth.

Another fine example of those mindless events are the Emergency Broadcast System annoying horns that cut into our television and radio time and give us a few minutes to go use the restroom (heaven forbid we actually need them some day, they’ll be crying “wolf"). Still, admit it, don’t you sometimes stay to listen…just in case? You were doing just fine and dandy until someone reminded you that it could all go away in a minute’s notice.

The Emergency Broadcast System was put in place in 1963-1997. After that, it became known as the Emergency Alert System. Thankfully, the system has never been used for a national event. It has, however, been used 20,000 times for local emergencies mostly involving weather (amazingly, when I lived in LA in 1987 and we had a 6.0 earthquake, it was not used…however, I watched the newsman on TV dive under his desk during an aftershock and knowing I lived about 30 miles from him, it was coming my way, so technically the big baby was my emergency broadcast system).

Prior to this system, we had CONELRAD (Control Of Electromagnetic Radiation) Doesn’t that give you a warm fuzzy? This was what we had during the height of the Cold War. CONELRAD came to be in 1951-1963. It was felt necessary to have a method (radio and TV) to inform residents of their impending doom. What exactly we were supposed to do if we heard the warning, I’m not sure (hide under our desks at home?)

You know, when I think of it…we haven’t progressed all that much. Wasn’t it just several years ago the Bush "regime" (yeah, that’s the term I use) implemented a wonderful color-wheel of terror warnings and then proceeded to advise us to corner the market on duck tape and plastic sheeting?

I digress. This post is obviously off the usual ghost hunting theories, but by now ya’all know that I follow my whimsy wherever it takes me, but usually it’s on a path that’s paranormal and if growing up in an era of playground siren towers and children ducking under desks doesn’t sound supernatural, then I don’t know what does.

Oh, and by the way, I was the kid in class who refused to get under her desk (next to a row of windows nonetheless). I opted for pulling back the coat closet on wheels and hiding inside of it. Even then I showed debunking skills!


  1. Yeah I'm one who stops and listens just in case. Of course when it's cloudy out (like it is a lot here in Oregon) it kind of adds a sense of realism to one of those tests. I get a bizarre sense of enjoyment when I hear one of those alerts go off. Sort of a hope that the clouds outside will turn to a cool storm, or that perhaps it's some alien invasion or zombie outbreak...yeah I'm a bit nuts.

    Regarding the cold war ones, I've often wondered what they expected people to do about the fallout. I mean sure you survive the explosion by taking cover, but it probably would have been better to die since the effects of the radiation are far worse and make your final days full of suffering.

  2. I do remember those annoying test on the TV right in the middle of a show I really wanted to watch! They have toned them down and you rarely see them anymore, thank goodness. BTW, I like it when you go off the ghost hunting theories now and then. The things you come up with are usually fun and different.

  3. Naveed;
    Yeah, I agree that I've actually waited breathlessly to hear of some exciting storm coming--we so rarely get them. I like the zombie alert scenario, "this is not a test. Beat em or burn em, they go up easy." Hee hee. In Bush's infinite wisdom, he decided to transport waste for nuclear plants on trucks up our highway here towards Nevada. We go a notice saying that our firehouse nearby is ready for nuclear issues and then recommended (we live 1/4 mile from the I-10) that we get iodine tablets in case there's a truck accident. I feel a warm fuzzy all over again.

  4. OH I remember those too. And watching all of the horrific b&w films in elementary of what would happen. I use to have the most frightening nightmares because of all of that. Remember people building the bomb shelters?

  5. Oh yeah, we had a few folks in our area with bomb shelters. It was supposed to be hush-hush so the neighbors wouldn't pound on their doors, but everyone knew--you can't dig up your entire backyard with nothing more than a chainlink fence between houses without folks knowing your business. I can't remember when I quit thinking about the bomb all together, but I'm certain it was during Reagen's era. I remember thinking--well, we have systems to shoot them down and "star wars" and all that rot, so I just quit thinking about it. Plus, the world was getting smaller and smaller. When Russians used to seem exotic like in the movie "The Russians are Coming! The Russians are Coming!" (one of my fav's BTW), suddenly Russians were wanting to listen to Sting and consume like Americans. They seemed to lose their "teeth."

  6. Leonard Cohen has a line in a song if his (think its him anyway) that says "theres gonna be a meter around your bed" referring to those fun color coded terror levels-I still think of it as the Bush regime also-the most non-law abiding and utterly corrupt presidency we have ever had-and thats saying a helluva lot right there!! I think Bush the Younger beats out any "worst" president by about 20 times -I usually try to think the best of people-but in his case I hope he has some answering and suffering to do if there is an afterlife!!

    I really enjoyed this article Autumnforest-it is so odd how we never thought of what that thing would really mean if it were a "real" event!! I also enjoyed hearing about your 1987 California experience although I am sure glad you are all right!! it sounds like the news presenter on TV might have had to change his shorts haha-best to you as always-and yes I always make sure the signal is a test only -god help us if it is ever real!!

  7. I just finished watching a little goobment number on the History channel that dealt mostly with COG.

    I had something on my mail site a few days ago that still has me freaked out...been sitting around in my tin foil hat....oh well

  8. Dev;
    You always make me laugh. Yeah, the sad thing about Bush is he's like that really dense person you know who just doesn't even get why people hate him. He's like chuckling and shrugging and looking around him like, "guys, quit pulling my leg" when everyone's dead serious--we hate you, dude!

    Tin foil, huh? I like to pin my hair up on top of my head and put a quartz crystal in it. Totally f's up the aliens. :-)

  9. I live right across the river from a "nooklar" plant. They test the sirens every month. They also mail out free calendard every year with survival instructions, evacuation routes, directions to shelters...
    Shortly after 9-11 I was lying on the couch watching the coverage on CNN, it happened to be a siren test day. When that thing went off I jumped about three feet into the air!
    What,s really weird is I read this post shortly after watching the classic "Panic In The Year Zero", great movie! In many aspects, it eclipses a lot of the more recent post-apocalypse movies. And it has a young Frankie Avalon. :D

  10. Gummer;
    I've never seen that movie--must see it! That would so creep me out living near there. Jeez! I'd definitely jump too. I remember the news for a long time poking at our vulnerable places...our ports, our nuclear plants, crop dusters, stadiums... I remember there being very few people leaving home for a long while. The roadways seemed empty and the skies quiet. That's about as freaky as it gets.

  11. Yep, you'd like it. It isn't exactly apocalyptic, like say, Mad MaxN but considering it was made in '50s (with the rather "optimistic" view of survival they had back then) it's a great "society under stress" movie.


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