Federal Internet Law & Policy
An Educational Project

Emergency Alert System

Dont be a FOOL; The Law is Not DIY

"This is a test of the Emergency Alert System—this is only a test…"

You will occasionally hear or see these words on your local broadcast station or cable system.

In 1951, President Harry Truman established CONELRAD (Control of Electromagnetic Radiation) as the first national alerting system. Under CONELRAD, radio stations were required to broadcast only on certain frequencies during an emergency alert. This prevented an enemy from attacking by using transmissions from broadcast stations as a guide for their target.

CONELRAD later became the "Emergency Broadcast System" (EBS). The EBS was designed to provide the President with a means to address the American people in the event of a national emergency. Through the EBS, the President had access to thousands of broadcast stations to send an emergency message to the public.

In 1994, to overcome some of the limitations of the older EBS system, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) replaced the EBS with the Emergency Alert System (EAS). The major difference between EBS and EAS is the method used to alert broadcast stations about an incoming message.

The EAS provides not only the President, but national, state and local authorities, with the ability to give emergency information to the general public via broadcast stations, cable and wireless cable systems. While participation in national EAS alerts is mandatory for these providers, state and local area EAS participation is voluntary.

FCC Fact Sheet.


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  • BuffaloWatch Local, State, National warnings, amber alerts, weather | stand alone application
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  • Nebraska City puts Pop Ups to Good Use as Emergency Alert System, MATR News MArch 12, 2003
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