Emergency Broadcast System mistakes?

We’ve all heard the "This is only a test… " broadcast if we’ve ever listened to American radio long enough. It’s a bit off-putting (well, for me), a little reminder that out of any clear, pale blue sky can come sticks of flaming death. But, as I said, that was only a test. A taped test, implying that the real broadcast (the one that would be used in the aforementioned Emergency) is also on tape. A tape sitting in every radio station from Honolulu to Nome.

So, has any station ever broadcast the real EBS tape instead of the test version? If any have, what did it sound like and what was the result?


According to Songbird, there have been actual broadcasts.

The “real” broadcast is not on tape. When they do a test, they’re testing the communication lines between the TV or radio station and the source of the potential emergency information. For the test, they’re just sending a signal down the line (those long beep sounds you hear). The tape is used by the TV or radio station to explain to their listeners what’s going on.

In the event of a real emergency, there would be a real, live human being telling you what the emergency was about, and what you should do. How could they have a tape to cover every scenario?

Ah, thank you. I was dimly aware of such an article, but I obviously had forgotten one or two salient points. (I’d also forgotten that the EBS had been retired. It does seem like it’s been a while since the last broadcast. ;))

But my question remains: Have there been any accidents?

And Early Out answers in the double-post. Neat.

I was unaware that the real broadcast would be live (obviously).

The station I worked at years ago used a tape, and got threatened with a fine for not having the actual apparatus that sends the signal. The tape looked like an old 8-track and had everything on it: The announcement, the signal and the end announcement.

On the log, it was listed as “EBS Test” and the on-duty jock would just slip it in at the appointed time. The only way we would have ever known if it was a “real thing” is if the news director (me) caught a some chatter on his scanner or if we caught another station broadcasting an actual alert. We weren’t WKRP, but we were damn close! :smiley: