A regular EBS test in 1971 – with “ten bells” on the teletype – caused panic in control rooms.
Mike Anderson’s the editor and publisher of the St. Louis Media site, and he says the usual weekly Saturday morning 10:33am EBS test on February 20, 1971 shook him to the core. He’d heard three bells from the teletype a couple of times with “tornadoes and such.” But 10? Mike had just gotten back from Vietnam and was doing his final months of service at Fort Hood in Texas.
He now says “If this was true, if we were really at war, I’d have to hotfoot it back to the 2ADHQ or at the very least desert the military and spend the remaining few moments of the end of the world with my wife and one-month-old daughter.” But UPI quickly sent a followup – there’d been a mistake, and America wasn’t on the verge of something cataclysmic.
As the radio industry prepares for tomorrow’s 2pm Eastern Time National EAS Test, Anderson’s story about using common sense is a good one. The FCC continues to urge stations to run PSAs ahead of time, announcing the fact that "this is only a test."