Don’t touch that dial

Roamy here. Yesterday’s test of the Emergency Alert System was something of a bust here. Almost all of the Alabama TV stations failed, with only DirecTV showing the test message. The alert system on the arsenal remained silent in my area, and that system usually works for severe weather warnings. The Alabama Broadcasters Association said FEMA was at fault, so we’ll probably be doing this again.

The first nationwide warning system was called CONELRAD, for CONtrol of ELectromagnetic RADiation. It was broadcast on 640 and 1240 kHz AM beginning in December 1951. It was to warn of an attack by the Soviet Union, not any local emergency or severe weather.

I didn’t know that radios were required to have markers for those frequencies, like this one with the Civil Defense logo.

I missed out on all the Cold War duck-and-cover exercises; my school stuck to tornado drills. CONELRAD was replaced by the Emergency Broadcast System in 1963, which always seemed to interrupt my Saturday morning cartoons. That was then replaced by the Emergency Alert System in 1997.

At least the local system worked well enough in April when the tornadoes hit. There are tornado sirens scattered throughout the city, and the local stations will interrupt programming to warn of severe weather. I’m sure having that system in place saved lives. They just need to be careful to not be the boy who cried wolf, with a warning every time the wind rises above 25 mph.

Let’s hope they get the bugs worked out.

5 thoughts on “Don’t touch that dial”

  1. Roamy, GREAT post.

    One of the ironies of modern “homeland security” is that it was largely done long ago under the auspices of Civil Defense. Evacuation of cities, mass medical care, sheltering, alerts and warnings, all of it.

    Modern DHS acts like the teenager who thinks he discovered sex.

    1. URR, one of the buildings I used to work in was set up as a Civil Defense shelter around 1964. Stored away were a number of cots (dry-rotted by the time I came around) and a couple of large cans of supplies. At least one can could be converted into a toilet. I don’t remember what all was in the can, but there was “carbohydrate supplement” (candy – I ate some on a dare), iodine tablets, water purification tablets, and a medical manual with instructions for treating radiation poisoning and preventing diarrhea from the close quarters.

  2. I remember “duck and cover” quite well…along with all the frightening movies they should us of what happens when a nuclear blast goes off. It got to where the sounds of the waring sirens at any time other than noon Friday sent shivers down my spine. And then, during my first visit to my wifes home town of Frostburg, MD, up in the mountains, I heard the sirens go off at 4 in the morning. I rolled out of bed and hit the floor with my hands over my head…at which point, my wife told me, “it’s the sirens for the volunteer fire department” 🙂

  3. My Dad told me the entire deal was to guard WTAL, 1450 a.m. on your radio dial, from the Russians who were known to hate teen rock.

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