Melissa Bell
Washington Post
November 9, 2011

At 2 p.m. Wednesday afternoon, television programs and radio shows will be interrupted with a familiar message: “This is a test. This is only a test.”

It will be the first time the Federal Emergency Management Agency has attempted to alert the entire nation at once with its Emergency Alert System. While the program hopes to reach as many people as possible as quickly as possible, two means of communication are still missing from the system: the Internet and mobile phones.

The purpose of the test, of course, is to see how prepared the United States is in the event of a natural disaster, national emergency or terrorist attack. A 30-second warning video will air and cable companies will report how many estimated viewers saw the alert. Television viewers and radio listeners are expected to simply bear with the warning — no ducking under desks required.

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