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. Well, it does speak to fear. Born in '74, I was old enough throughout the 80s Reagan years of lingering cold war Russian fears and nuclear freakout to have been very disturbed by those tests on TV. They creeped me out. The whole of the early to mid 80s was the threat of nuclear holocaust beneath a thin veil of pop music. Ironic looking back, that neither side really saw that the president was a senile old fart or that the USSR was a broken regime falling apart on the inside--literally. So, it's funny to see a lot of revisionist history now concerning Reagan, painting him as the last great president or something. I'm like, cripes! I was just a kid and got that this man had lost it. But enough of that. It's about childhood fears and if you grew up in the post nuclear age, it was often about bombs and radioactive fallout. In my novel, when the ghost hunter guy is musing darkly about the radioactive symbol looking like a cyclopsian jack-o-lantern, that's me. I grew up with all that paranoia. It's gotta shape your worldview somehow, I think.

  2. Yeah "the bomb" hung over us all our lives, but as a young child I had to learn about it because people of the damned siren drills and such. It was a crazy conservative world that had folks caged in the back of buses and such. To me, conservatism is at the cost of human rights and evolution as a species.

  3. There is supposed to be a nationwide test on all channels, November 9th at 2pm Eastern.

    The FCC is broadcasting this, remind people it's only a test... On that note, I wonder how many people are still going to freak out??

  4. To expand on what Idaho was saying...

    What if the terrorists were on to this advanced notice of the EAS "test" schedule and planned an attack for that exact time so everyone that heard the alert would think it was just a test when it really WASN'T!!!

    Who would be crying wolf then, huh?

  5. I remember doing fire escape and tornado drills when I was a kid in school. I always got a kick out of the old 'atom bomb' drills schoolkids used to do in the 1950's. I wonder if my son would get a kick out of the drills we used to do?


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