Statement of REC Networks: October 3rd's test for emergency alerting at the national (Presidential) level
First of all, to be clear; that in this statement, I am not taking any position on President Donald J. Trump; neither for or against. What I am taking a position on is the trivializing of [today's] nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System and Wireless Emergency Alert test.
In the past few years, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in cooperation with the FCC has developed the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS). This system has two primary functions, it allows public agencies from the local level to the federal level to originate alerts. These alerts are then pushed to other users who will receive these alerts for rebroadcast to the public. The latter includes potential for broadcast stations, standalone devices, video gaming consoles, websites and wireless phones and tablets to receive data that is aggregated from IPAWS for distribution to the public.
For decades, going back to the old CONELRAD system (and some have even said, before that), there has been a method for the federal government at the level of the Executive Branch (i.e. the Presidential level) to access our radio and television broadcast stations for the dissemination of emergency information of federal importance. These types of warnings have been referred to as "Presidential Alerts" because they can allow the President to address the nation within 10 minutes during a national emergency.
In this modern age of social media, our Nation's leadership has embraced this medium, especially Twitter in order to get non-critical messages out to millions of "followers" including many U.S. citizens. Both President Trump and former President Obama have used Twitter. Both Presidents have been criticized for the content of their tweets.
In the past few months, there have been many in the media (mainstream and niche) and on social media who have rode this dangerous wave of over-analyzing the codified terminology "Presidential Alert" to trivialize the importance of today's test. There have been questions raised on whether the President will break protocol and use the system to send messages of a non-critical national security/civil defense nature (i.e. for political gain). Today is not the first nationwide test for emergency alerts, but it is the first for them being delivered through wireless devices. Instead of trying to be aware of the importance of this system, many have said they would shut off their phones because they "don't want to hear from the President".
Again, I am not taking a position on the policies, nor conduct of our current President, nor the previous President; I am just stating the facts regarding the reception to today's emergency alert test.
In 2017, less than 50% of all licensed LPFM stations participated in the previous test (down from the previous year). LPFM needs to improve that this year. All broadcast stations, especially LPFM stations, need to make sure that they have Form One already submitted and Form Two submitted by end of day today after the conclusion of the test and to submit Form Three by mid-November.
Since the 1950s, the President of the United States has had access to every American through the primary method of electronic media that they monitor. For decades, this meant radio and television but now, it also means other methods that many Americans use for monitoring electronic media, mainly wireless mobile devices.
This is a test, this is only a test. Hopefully, it will never be more than a test. But if it ever was, then I will be glad its there. Let's not trivialize this, nor any future tests over some kind of political speculation. This goes for both sides of the aisle. IPAWS, EAS and WEA should not be political footballs in any way. They are an important part of our Nation's infrastructure. Let's treat it that way.