Why are EAS required weekly tests necessary?

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Doesn’t spamming TV viewers with a non-emergency alert every single week make them much more likely to ignore the alert when an emergency occurs? Why do the tests need to be done every single week, rather than once every few months?

In: Engineering

Because the regulation says so. Broadcast TV is required to participate in EAS, and EAS requires weekly and monthly testing. See, e.g., 47 C.F.R. 11.61.

If you disagree you can write the FCC and informally request a different rule. If you REALLY disagree you can sue.

The tests are there to ensure that the emergency alert system works. EAS works by using special hardware to interrupt the normal broadcast and replace it with the alerts broadcast. TV and radio stations don’t make money off of the hardware, so they have little incentive to test it themselves. So EAS test alerts are sent out on a regular basis to ensure that each station has working hardware.

A real EAS message is much more noticeable than a test. Viewers are highly unlikely to mistake a test for a real one.

There is a chance of the “cry wolf effect” taking its toll on people who hear the alarm too much but that’s primarily handled by just informing the public that it is indeed a test and not spamming it every day. The FCC has to make it a compliance rule for networks to keep their special alert broadcast tools maintained otherwise they would have no real incentive to do so. If they don’t then if a real emergency happens and they find that their equipment has not been maintained through routine testing then people’s lives could be in real serious danger.