Emergency Broadcast System purpose?

I fail to understand the purpose of the Emergency Broadcast System (EBS) and these ridiculous abrupt and unannounced tests - which are even more intrucive and useless than the old test! As the best example, on 9/11/01…it was all news from start to finish…there was no word of any kind from the EBS! Isn’t this system from a previous era of air-raid drills and fall-out shelters? Heck, no one really knew what was going on, anyhow!
I really don’t understand the point…am I missing something?

  • Jinx

It is from the 50s,IIRC,but the message aways said tune to this frequency (EBS) and they’d give instructions on what stations on the dial would have more info,eg.duck and cover in NYC,but Montana’s in the clear.

In today’s political climate I don’t see the EBS messages ending anytime soon.

This is the Connelrad system (yes, I probably mis-spelled it).

This goes back to the very earliest days of missle warfare. Q: how do you get your missle to hit something worth hitting?
A: you equipped them with homing devices that would track radio broadcasts (the thought being, where there was a radio-frequency transmitter, something worthwile was nearby).

The connelrad system was to shut down all “non-essential” radio transmissions, so as to “blind” incoming missles - the stations which would remain on the air would be remote repeater stations - far from population centers or military installations.

This system has been obsolete since the mid-1950’s, but the US civil-defense apparatus has never been exactly state-of-the-art.

Montana has never been in the clear. Given that we have a lot of America’s nuclear missile silos and SAC bases, Montana would probably have been a more tempting target to the Soviets than Boston and New York combined.

The Conelrad system was part of America’s civil defense system, and I have spelled the name correctly. :slight_smile:

Jinx, the Civil Defense system is for national emergencies, not local ones. As bad as 9/11 was, it didn’t impact Montana. A nuclear war of the type we were expecting from the Soviets would have been a global event, with fallout spreading around the world and into areas not hit by the blasts. If anything is going to survive, the whole nation must be wired for sound at a moment’s notice, and the people must be primed to listen closely to certain kinds of broadcasts. The first part was fixed by the 1930s with the advent of radio, and again in the 1950s with television, but the second part was harder to arrange. The only way to do it is to have periodic ear-splitting drills that remind the population that those radios ain’t just for looks.

But wait a moment! First of all, we didn’t know what was coming next…esp after the second plane hit. Secondly, it DID impact Montana in the sense that all aircraft were ordered to land, and all airports were shut down thereabout (timewise). Lastly, I never thought the EBS was designed for exclusively all-out National event. The old test used to say (IIRC) “…if this had been a real emergency, broadcasters in your area would have instructed you…” I thought this system might also be used for mass communication of instruction during a hurricane evacuation, for example.

Heck, while I am too young to remember air-raid drills, I still recall the “one-o’clock” whistle tests and the “fall-out shelter” symbol on public buildings (rarely found today). So, if we can stop the one-o’clock whistle tests… :wink: …Just thinking aloud, - Jinx

From the Straight Dope mailbag

(lots more good info in the Mailbag response)

also check out

this site on the FCC’s webpage (there is a great fact sheet too…)

CONELRAD stands for CONtrol of ELectronic RADiation. 1950’s Soviet Warning stuff.

The EBS was the two-tone BEEEEP followed by this:

That was replaced in the mid 1990’s by the digital EAS (Emergency Alert System) which has slightly less annoying sounds (and pops up even on cable channels for their tests). In many areas, the AMBER Alerts (for abducted children) are/will be tied into the EAS.

9-11 certainly was an event(s) that counted as a National Emergency. We saw the Gov/FAA’s plan to close down the airports and scramble jet-fighters. I’m sure folks in Chicago (or Montana) might want to know why those F-14’s are roaring overhead.

9/11 didn’t impact Montana. The national altered states afterwards did.