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'This Is Only A Test;' National Alert System Gets Trial Run Today

Don't be alarmed at 2 p.m. ET today when broadcasters across the U.S., including NPR stations, take part in the first-ever nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System.

After all, as NPR's Brian Naylor reports for our Newscast Desk, "remember, this is only a test."

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and as many of you surely know, the system "is frequently used and tested at the local level." But it's never been tested everywhere at once. Today, though, FEMA wants to "ensure that the EAS is functional and that EAS participants are prepared to issue alerts."

Broadcasters, such as NPR, won't change what they do. But for about 30 seconds you'll hear the familiar "this is only a test" message and alarms. And there will be language "crawling" across TV screens. Then regular broadcasting will resume, possibly in mid-sentence during our newscast.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.