ABC Tests The Emergency Alert System During The Last Minute Of Last Night's NBA Finals Game

Reader Mike8813’s local ABC affiliate decided that the last minute of game 3 of the NBA Finals was a good time to conduct a monthly required test of the EAS. Whoops!

I’m a little pissed off right now. I missed the last 30 seconds of Game 3 of the NBA finals because the local ABC affiliate (KAKE in Wichita, KS) decided to run a test of the emergency alert system. That’s right, a TEST! On what proved to be Boston’s last shot at closing the gap, I was treated to a series of bleeps and bloops accompanying a gray screen, and was reunited with game coverage in time to see the players walking to the locker room. I soon found out that there was no miracle, and that the Celtics did indeed lose. But that’s besides the point.
I called KAKE, politely explained what happened, and asked if anyone else had called in to report this. She said no, and also added this: “It’s a required monthly test, and I’m not sure that we can do anything about the timing of it.” I find that very hard to believe. Is FOX helpless to stop the EAS test from popping up during the last 30 seconds of the Super Bowl? Will they simply shrug their shoulders and say that there was nothing they could do about it? Unlikely.
I asked if she could bring it to someone’s attention, and said that I was very disappointed that this happened. She said that she would “look into it”, and made no apologies.

Wikipedia says that EAS tests aren’t supposed to be scheduled during important live events such as the Oscars, or the Superbowl, but we weren’t able to find anything on the FCC’s website that confirmed that rule. Anyone work in TV? Want to enlighten us?


Edit Your Comment

  1. beavis88 says:

    The answer, obviously, is that game 3 of the NBA finals did not qualify as an “important live event”. Sorry.

  2. I used to work in radio, and the test were scheduled on specific days and times. I don’t know if the Program Mgr decided those times or the FCC.

    But TV and radio aren’t the only reliable ways of reaching the masses anymore. Can’t the NSA pop-up a EAS test on the Internet; maybe send out a 100-million-person text msg?

  3. Uckofay says:

    I don’t know how TV runs, but I worked in radio for the past 6 years and our tests would come down through the EAS pipeline, the local station had nothing to do with it, and the jock for the most part on air, did not even know he was currently cut off for it.

  4. @beavis88: Until the Cubs win the Pennant, no such sporting event will qualify. Sorry.

  5. Here’s what you missed: Lakers won.

    Although the end of the game was pretty close.

  6. MPHinPgh says:

    Just imagine if that had happened for Game 5 of the Stanley Cup. There would had to have been a human sacrifice.

    (for those of you not in to hockey, the Penguins tied the game with the Redwings with 34 seconds left in regulation, and forced three overtime periods).

  7. Dapole says:

    Playoff smayoff, who cares…
    @ heavylee-again: Can you imagine the if they did send off a massive text to every phone in the US. The conspiracy wackos would have a field day, “See i was telling you they are listening to my thoughts, how else could they know to send my cell phone a text message?”

  8. KlausKinsky says:

    Something like this does not come from the network…. its the local station. Probably some idiot in master control at the station.

  9. milk says:

    I only ever see these in the early morning, around 02:00-03:00.

  10. missdona says:

    Speaking of alternative ways, last night a got a Code-Red voicemail from my township stating there would be rolling blackouts not lasting more than one hour. The power went out around 10:15 and came back at 6 this morning. I think they have a broad definition of one hour.

    Yes, I know we had massive storms last night, but still.

  11. garbagehead says:

    @MPHinPgh: im sorry i missed it. that’s suspense

  12. MeOhMy says:

    @MPHinPgh: Hmm… “If an EAS test interrupts a program that no one is watching, did it actually happen?” That’s a little Tiger Woods humor there.

    I always thought they ran these tests during crappy daytime programming…I’ve never seen one at night!

  13. MeOhMy says:

    @missdona: Maybe you were subject to 8 consecutive rolling blackouts :-)

  14. ShabazOSU says:

    Judging by all the comments, I think its pretty safe to say that Consumerist readers are not sports fans..
    I would be wicked pissed if this happened to me in Boston.

  15. MPHinPgh says:

    @Troy F.: Wow. Guess no one’s a hockey fan in here ;-)

    Let’s Go Pens! (for next year)

  16. @ShabazOSU: I’m a sports fan, and in Boston, but I’m just ashamed that I can’t stay awake to see the entire game.

  17. OnceWasCool says:

    Watched on the news this morning that the NBA is being exposed for being rigged.

  18. bravo369 says:

    This didn’t happen to me in NJ. on a similar note though, i hate when stations interrupt a show in the final 10 minutes for a Special report when the news is coming on right after. I think a station manager or someone got fired once because of an interruption for something that was nothing more than a status update of a situation

  19. Youthier says:

    @ShabazOSU: That’s what I was thinking! I’m not really a basketball fan but even interrupting a 3rd quarter punt of a meaningless football game would cheese me off.

  20. It’s state law that the emergency tornado sirens have to be tested at 10 a.m. on the first Tuesday of the month, come hell or high water ….

    Except that since their major purpose is to warn of approaching tornados, when we were IN AN ACTIVE TORNADIC STORM on the first Tuesday of THIS month, local emergency services rescheduled the test for the fire “fine” Tuesday of the month, feeling that was preferable to sending the entire city scurrying to their basements.

    I’ve never seen that happen before — I’ve heard them test the sirens in some pretty hairy weather — but if the tornado (and air raid!) sirens can be moved for weather, I’m guessing the emergency broadcast system test can also be moved.

  21. swags says:

    @Troy F.: Tiger might want to take a look in the mirror on that one.

    @MPHinPgh: Boo! Let’s go Caps!

  22. VeredPulcher says:

    Having worked in TV, including 2 small market local affiliates, the
    affiliate should have total control of when the test goes off. The FCC
    does not mandate a specific time, only a general one. My memory is kind
    of fuzzy on the exact wording, but it generally alternates on a general
    time frame. For example, even months would have the test happen during
    morning hours while odd months have it during evening hours.

  23. kborer22 says:

    didn’t happen in boston! was watching the game til the end, no interruptions, hope the lakers were happy last night, they made more free throws than the celtics had attempts, nice to see results when you superstar/legendary coach cry like babies!

  24. ninabi says:

    That’d qualify as an emergency in my house. My husband would have an aneuresym.

  25. healthdog says:

    Heidi Bowl FTW!

  26. smallestmills says:


    I’m a hockey fan. The original comment should have read:

    Good thing that didn’t happen in Game six, when Fleury knocked in a goal by Zetterburg,giving them a 3-1 lead to eventually Stanley Cup Champions.

    (okay, so that was with 7:36, but still…)

  27. Joedragon says:
  28. synergy says:

    My husband works Master Control at a local t.v. station. I know that they are required to run the EAS test at the scheduled time and if they don’t, the station is liable for a fine from the FCC and technically could have their license revoked by the FCC. I can’t say who determines the scheduling, but I do know that the time they’re supposed to do it is not open to discussion by Master Control.

  29. darksunfox says:

    …the last 30 seconds of an NBA basketball game tends to last about fifteen minutes. How much did you actually miss? ;) God the NBA sucks the life out of the game… college basketball is much more exciting.

  30. gripworks says:

    I work at the State Primary EAS station for Utah. Weekley EAS tests are initiated by the individual station and are supposed to happen at random times. However these times are supposed to be during regularly scheduled commercial breaks. Monthley EAS tests are initiated by the state and are scheduled months in advance. When a TV station recieves a monthley test they have a 15 minute window to relay it to viewers and down on the line. As far as not doing tests during “Big Events” there is nothing codified by the FCC regarding this, however common sense on the part of the station or the state usually prevails.

  31. synergy says:

    I’m also guessing that considering the game didn’t even start until 9ET, the end of the game was pretty late and normally there’s nothing much to interrupt at that time. Probably the alert was scheduled long before and no one took into account potential conflict with an NBA game. Or possibly didn’t care. If they’re due to do it, they need to run it.

  32. rochec says:

    The big question is why the hell you were watching the NBA.

  33. P_Smith says:

    @rochec: Too true.

    Who watches basketball? It’s a girls’ sport played by men.

  34. misteral says:

    important live events such as the Oscars


  35. CharlieInSeattle says:

    I’ve worked Master Control for a TV station, and it wasn’t the TV station that controls when these alerts go out. It’s the EAS that controls that, station gets a signal that overrides the current broadcast. Nothing the station can do about it.

  36. TVGenius says:

    In the state I work in TV in, the weekly tests used to normally happen about the same time on Wednesdays each week. Monthly tests could come at any time, any day of the week.

    The EAS receiver we had had the option of automatically sending all alerts instantly when it received them from up the chain, or holding them so they could be sent manually. Supposedly, it was supposed to be put in manual mode during newscasts so it didn’t get interrupted, but left in auto at all other times. Needless to say, lots of them got lost in manual mode and were never sent, and at times we lost entire weather segments to the severe thunderstorm warnings the weather guy was talking about (but nobody could hear).

    OP says the screen went gray? AFAIK, the only EAS systems that do that normally are the ones at the cable companies, since they interrupt all channels with a full-screen graphic, whereas every TV station I’ve ever seen just has a crawl at the top or bottom of the screen.

  37. NotATool says:

    EAS tests aren’t supposed to be scheduled during important live events such as the Oscars […]

    Since when are the Oscars an important live event? Important to the pompous rich Hollywood people who are *on* that show? Certainly not to me.

  38. bvita says:

    Radio stations, TV Stations and cable systems are all required to run a number of different tests of the EAS system at random intervals.

    Each broadcast outlet must run a weekly test (RWT – required weekly test)at some random time during the week every week. This is generated locally and may be initiated manually or on some software generated schedule.

    Each outlet is also required to rebroadcast a required montly test that is generated by the primary or backup station in their market. They have limited control over this one.

    In each geographic area one station has been assigned the duties of primary station. There’s also a backup assigned. When there is an emergency the governmental authority responsible for the alert notifies the primary station and they put out the alert. All of the other stations in that market have a tuner that is monitoring the primary and backup for the alert tones. When the tones are sensed, the monitor kicks to life and captures the audio and a text version of the alert.

    Depending on the nature of the alert and how the station’s EAS receiver is programmed, the alert can either immediately cut into the broadcast chain, interrupting the programming, and air the alert or it can alert the station personnel so that the alert can be broadcast at a break in the programming.

    For example, if it were an attack alert or a tornado warning, it should cut right in. If it were an Amber alert or a tornado watch,the DJ could relay the message at the end of a song.

    Given that a lot of the stations today are automated for at least a part of their broadcast day, many stations have select the automated cut-in option so as not to miss an EAS alert. This is what we do at the college station that I’m responsible for.

    In the case of the game, since it was a network feed, the EAS receiver must have received a test from “upstream” or the software that generates the random schedule kickeded in and the EAS box dutifully cut in and sent out the alert.

    BTW, at most the alert would have timed out after 2 minutes. Not quite the drama portrayed.

  39. dman19 says:

    I’m in Topeka and the EAS test came through at the same time. we have our own ABC station so its not just someone from your local Wichita station that did it. it pissed me off thats for sure. i remember thinking that if they had done that during the last few seconds of the national championship game for Kansas-Memphis i probably woulda gone postal on someone. glad that didn’t happen tho :)

  40. bovinekid says:

    The Celtics were down by 6 with 30 seconds left. The game was over. I had already turned it off by then. Quit whining.

  41. tape says:

    @bovinekid: if you think being down 6 with :30 to play means the game is “over”, I think Reggie Miller might like to have a few words with you regarding the 1995 Eastern Conference Semis.

  42. Mike8813 says:

    @bovinekid: I’m terribly sorry that my “whining” has upset you so much. Since my interests differ from yours, and what I value as important is deemed worthless by you, you have every right to lash out and insult me.

    Go fuck yourself, moron.

  43. synergy says:

    My husband has corrected me slightly. As @TVGenius has already stated, there are weekly ones generated/scheduled by the local station and then there’s the monthly ones which the local station has little to no control over. Since the OP mentioned that it was a monthly EAS alert, MC probably has little to no control over it.

  44. @smallestmills: If that had happened during Game 6 at ANY point, you probably would have heard about me on the local NY/NJ news the next day after having savagely beaten every employee at Cablevision.

  45. Mike8813 says:

    And to those saying the Cable company could have issued the test, I also pondered that possibility at first. My first call was made to Cox cable. The man who spoke to me said point blank that it was the local station’s fault.

    Perhaps he was just playing the blame game in order to get me off the phone, but I took it as truth at the time. Who knows.

  46. bobfromboston says:

    Summary of Consumerist comments:

    1. This happened during an NBA game.
    2. I hate the NBA.
    3. Thus, it’s not important to me, and shouldn’t be to anyone else.

    Thank you for your contributions.

  47. Grandjester says:

    Your Deadspin got in my Consumerist!

  48. Wichitawesome says:

    This story is wrong. I live in wichita, watched the game and suffered the same problem on my hi-def service from Cox Communications, however the Standard Def TV had no problems in the other room. If the person would have tried to change the channel they would have realized that all channels on the cox cable box were being tested. Don’t blame the wrong people.

  49. wishlish says:

    That’s really weird, because in the New York area, we actually had an EAS broadcast during the game, and it wasn’t intrusive at all. There were serious thunderstorm alerts during the game, and we’d get a short beep (which was noticable but didn’t completely block the game commentary), and then a scroller on the bottom with the details.

    Imagine that- the alert in NYC was less obtrusive than the test in KS!

    To be fair, you missed nothing. I turned the game off with less than a minute to go.

  50. Wichitawesome says:

    I watched this game and the problem was only on TV’s with Cox Hi-def box. I’m sorry but your an idiot for trusting a tech call to Cox past 10pm at night, they just want you off the phone, they’ll tell you anything to pass the buck. my roomates tv without a hi-def box had the game fine. had you tried changing the channel you would have noticed every channel was out on the box not just channel 10.

  51. Suaveydavey says:

    The season finale of NCIS was on and was interrupted on the Charter HD cable in the living room. The cable box display read ‘EAS’ and went through its spiel. The tv in the other room is directly wired to the cable [with no converter box] and the feed was not interrupted. I have noticed the ‘test’ is just a crawl on the hard wired cable, while the converter box test locks up the remote and hijacks the tv with a full screen message.

  52. Bruce_A says:

    Speaking as someone whose enjoyment of Star Trek and other sci-fi shows has been negatively impacted by sports broadcasts running long, I have this to say, “Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!”

    But seriously, that’s lousy timing. I feel your pain, sports fans.

  53. TreyWaters says:

    @Bruce_A: Not just sci-fi shows. Networks like to preempt almost ANY show with sports. Who cares? You can always just get the score from another source?

  54. HeartBurnKid says:

    @Bruce_A: As a wrestling fan who’s watched Smackdown get constantly pre-empted in favor of baseball and basketball games that I have no interest in, I echo that sentiment.

  55. TheShepherd says:

    @silencedotcom: Agreed. I fell asleep before the end of the game. What ever happened to “prime time”?

  56. anarcurt says:

    The basketball season’s still going on??? Yawn.

  57. The testing is automated on the local warning systems.

    Sorry, no great conspiracy.

  58. selectman says:

    @bobfromboston: +1!

    Can the condescending “sports are for brain-dead jerks” trolls please give it a rest?

  59. LogicalOne says:

    So when do they activate the EAS for real? The other night, during severe thunderstorms moving through our area, there was a report of a tornado touching down in our town. The NWS issued a tornado warning. The Weather Channel had a red crawl. A Fox semi-affiliate had a live report. Other than that, nothing on the other broadcast or cable stations. And this is a major metropolitan area.

    The EAS is a joke is it is never used when appropriate.

  60. Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

    That’s what we call “a wicked pissah.”

  61. Meathamper says:

    This is idiotic. They should have done this EAS during infomercial time, or when nobody is likely to watch TV. Hey, why DON’T they do that?

  62. wdnobile says:

    The EAS system is useless. its never ever used. Ive been through blizzards, earthhquakes, hurrricanes, and floods. Ive seen our country attacked on 9/11. NONE of these items required the EAS. Get rid of it.

  63. Meathamper says:

    @wdnobile: It’s a must by law.

  64. OrtonCresphontes says:

    Well I volunteer at a local emergency ops center. First I can say that you stated it was a monthly test. This is an important piece of information. Of it was a weekly test, then it was scheduled by the station. However, if it was a monthly test, then it was scheduled and transmitted either by the state EAS agency or by the primary relay station (eg WGN 720am for Chicago, or WABC or NYC), and sent down the chain of TV & radio stations that the relay station controls. So IF it was a MONTHLY test, then the person at the station was correct in saying there was nothing they could do. That is the way the EAS is setup. If it was a WEEKLY test, then the station scheduled it and the person at the station was wrong.

  65. Stephanie Saczawa says:

    This is the information that is outlined in a EAS state plan regarding the scheduling of tests:

    “The Originating Station is requested to use discretion in scheduling times for RMTs. Since all broadcasters and cable operators are required to rebroadcast this test within 15 minutes of receiving it, care should be taken not to put undue hardship on broadcasters when they are carrying their highest-revenue programming. On a daily basis, these periods would include all major newscasts: early morning, noon-time, evening, and late-evening. In addition, the times of major events should be avoided, such as pre-planned Presidential speeches, hours of a major national or local news story carried outside of normal newscast hours, local and national election coverage, and major sporting events like World Series games and the Superbowl.” Which means the NBA finals should be considered under this rule a major sporting event