[Rushtalk] Do You Remember?

Richard Whitenight rwhitenight2004 at gmail.com
Sun Nov 16 00:38:24 MST 2014

[image: EMMERGENCY banner The Emergency Broadcast System Causes Panic in

On Saturday, February 20th, 1971, at 9:33 a.m. Eastern Standard Time, the
nation panicked. The Emergency Broadcast System—a governmental method of
communication to be used in the event of war or catastrophe—was
accidentally authenticated with the code word “hatefulness” by civilian
Teletype operator Wayland S. Eberhardt. The message was received by radio
stations across the country, and with no reason to assume that this wasn’t
the real thing, they responded appropriately and relayed the bulletin to
thousands of listeners.

[image: EBS Broadcaster The Emergency Broadcast System Causes Panic in 1971]

Imagine hearing the following
your radio in 1971…

*“This station has interrupted its regular program at the request of the
United States government to participate in the Emergency Broadcast System
serving the Fort Wayne area….”*

[image: Emergency Broadcast System 2 The Emergency Broadcast System Causes
Panic in 1971]

Bob Sievers, whom you just heard, later called this moment his longest five
minutes on radio. For all he knew, he was about to deliver a message to his
listeners forecasting not the weather, but the apocalypse.

[image: EBS 1 The Emergency Broadcast System Causes Panic in 1971]

Howard Viken, in Minneapolis, responded as well
with the same prepared statement as the Sievers broadcast.

At 9:59 a.m., the first cancellation message was sent, but it used the
incorrect code word. At 10:13 a.m., 40 minutes after the emergency
broadcast began, the correct cancellation code word, “impish,” was sent and

[image: 1970 Broadcaster The Emergency Broadcast System Causes Panic in

Interestingly, this false alarm exposed many flaws in the EBS. Not only had
many stations not received the alert, but also some had simply ignored it
because it came at the same time as the regularly scheduled test. Other
broadcasters weren’t fully aware of how to respond.

Because of this false alarm, many problems with the system were fixed. In
1997, the Emergency Alert System replaced the EBS.

Richard Whitenight
Arlington, Texas

Twitter:  @rwhitenight0648

My e-mail is being maintained by the NSA, CIA, FBI, and the Department of
Homeland Security.  You can't get better secure e-mail than that.
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