Emergency Alert System Nationwide Test Could Confuse People with Sight, Hearing Problems

TAMPA (2011-11-8) -

Maybe you've heard that FEMA is doing a nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System tomorrow. But what's different about that?

It will run about 30 seconds long and this is the first time it will be aired across the country and in U.S. territories, simultaneously. And no matter where you turn on TV or radio, it will be there.

But the picture on your screen may not say it's only a test. FEMA Director Craig Fugate says that is because of the limitations of the current system.

That also means people with sight or visual impairments may only get part of the message, says FEMA's Neil McDevitt.

"Here's the challenge, some television stations across the country may not have the ability to change the words on the screen," McDevitt said.

"Instead they will have a voice saying it's a test. For people who are deaf or hard of hearing, they will not hear this voice.

"Likewise, people who are blind or have low vision will hear that it's only a test, but they may not understand what the test is about."

FEMA is working to make the EAS system more user-friendly. But remember when you hear or see the alert at 2 p.m. on November 9...it's only a test.

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