This Is Only a Digital Test, Repeat...


At about 20 minutes after 10 a.m. Wednesday, participating cellphones in the Washington area got a text message telling them to "Tune to National Emergency Broadcast on Radio/TV Now. This is a test of the Digital Emergency Alert."

That's because over on Capitol Hill, the Association of Public Television Stations and the Department of Homeland Security were showing off a joint effort to use noncommercial stations' digital spectrum to deliver emergency alerts during national crises.

The system was created to work with wireless networks and was being demonstrated for Hill types and others after two, six-month tests with participation from wireless, cable and broadcast partners.

The administration and the FCC have both made it a priority to improve emergency alert systems, with the President last week issuing an executive order to that effect, according to APTS.

When fully operational, if backed by the Congress and FCC, the system will alert emergency workers and other officials as well as the public via broadcast and cable TV, satellite radio cell phones and PDAs.