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Don't panic: It's just a test
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Next Wednesday every television and radio station will broadcast the familiar squawks and beeps of an emergency test, but this time the test will be broadcast out across the country.

The first-ever nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System will occur at 11 a.m. Wednesday. The test will last approximately three minutes and is being conducted jointly by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Federal Communications Commission, and the National Weather Service.

The Emergency Alert System is designed to transmit, via TV and radio, emergency alerts and warnings regarding weather threats, child abductions and other types of emergencies to the American public from national, state and local agencies. Cox Communications and the cable industry are working with the FCC to help alert the public and its communities of the upcoming test.

The test will specifically assess the reliability and effectiveness of the EAS to alert the public, and also identify any areas for improvements in the operation of the system during an emergency. While state and local tests already take place weekly and monthly, a simultaneous, nationwide test of the national EAS "emergency action notification" code has never occurred.

EAS participants, including broadcast radio and television, cable television, satellite radio and television and wireline video services, all are required to participate in the test. Following the test, all EAS participants must report test results to the FCC within 45 days, including whether, and from whom, they received the alert message and whether they disseminated it.