Radio and television programming throughout the United States will be interrupted tomorrow as the first nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System (EAS) is conducted.

While the broadcast infrastructure used to support the EAS has been used in response to local and regional events, tomorrow’s test at 2 p.m. EST represents the first time that the system has been tested on a nationwide level.

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“The system is designed basically to handle a presidential alert, in the event of national catastrophe, and that has never been tested — that is to say, the entire system, from coast to coast and out to sea has never been tested, so that’s what we’re doing for the first time,” an FCC source said during an interview.

Initially, the test was going last about three minutes, but this week the agency opted to shorten the test to 30 seconds, because the FCC believes a 30-second test will provide the information its needs to know about the EAS and because “it would be less disruptive to folks who were watching or listening to their TVs or radios,” the FCC source said.

After the test is conducted, broadcast communications providers such as cable companies and radio stations will be required to report their findings about the test — both the receipt and delivery of the emergency signal — to the FCC by Dec. 27, according to the FCC source. Public-safety agencies and the general public will have no direct responsibilities, but the FCC has made efforts to ensure that both groups are aware of the test in an effort to minimize the potential false responses to the test.