Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

This Is a Test: FCC to Revamp Disaster Warning System

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

This Is a Test: FCC to Revamp Disaster Warning System

Article excerpt

This is a test of the Emergency Broadcast System. . . . If this had been an actual emergency, you would have been instructed on where to tune in your area for news and information.

Get ready to kiss another Cold War artifact goodbye.

The weekly test of the Emergency Broadcast System is going the way of the backyard bomb shelter.

The Federal Communications Commission intends to bring the 42-year-old emergency warning system into the digital age by allowing federal and local disaster-management officials to transmit electronic alerts directly to the public.

Instead of relying solely on the decades-old town-crier tradition of phoning radio and television stations and asking them to spread the word of impending calamities, officials will be able to blanket entire communities with wireless signals.

Firefighters and police officers might receive these signals as data messages that would be displayed on pagers or portable computers. These signals will be able to automatically turn on televisions and radios, set off home smoke detectors, make lamps flash to alert the deaf, and activate various other consumer-electronics devices to let the citizenry know that trouble is on the way.

The overhaul of the Emergency Broadcast System, scheduled to begin next year, may represent a $100 million market for makers of the warning systems used by organizations responsible for spreading disaster news.

But for consumer-electronics makers, the new warning system will represent a marketing opportunity of inestimable value: a new generation of gadgets that can be sold as "disaster ready" devices that render older appliances obsolete.

By next spring, for example, buyers of most General Motors cars will be able to order radios with a data chip that will automatically switch on the receiver when an emergency signal is in the air. …

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