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A Vital Lifeline: National Emergency Alert System Test Impacts Tribal Communities

Opportunity Editorial by Loris Taylor, President and CEO, Native Public Media


Today, across the country, the Emergency Alert System (EAS) alert will go off on our phones, on radio and television, and other wireless devices simultaneously. It is a sound I don't mind hearing because it means that my connection to the country's most sophisticated and national early warning system is good. The test will also let me know which Tribal stations are off the EAS grid. Tribal radio and television stations serve Native communities across fifteen states.


In an age dominated by smartphones and digital connectivity, it's easy to forget that communities in the United States remain isolated, facing the dual challenges of poor transportation systems and limited broadband access. For these tribal communities, the national EAS test isn't just important – it's a lifeline that can mean the difference between life and death. As climate change intensifies, the frequency and severity of natural disasters and emergencies become more prevalent. We must recognize the crucial role of radio and television stations in rural and small communities, particularly in tribal areas. They ensure that emergency alerts can reach even the remotest corners of our nation, including tribal lands.


One of the fundamental challenges faced by these communities is limited broadband access. Without a reliable internet connection, tribal members cannot access critical information resources or communicate with emergency services during crises. While living in an increasingly digital world, we must remember that not everyone has equal access to these technologies. In many tribal communities, broadband infrastructure remains underdeveloped or non-existent, leaving residents with few means of receiving vital information during emergencies.


Radio and television stations have been steadfast allies to rural and small communities for decades, and their importance is often understated. These traditional media outlets have the reach and reliability that broadband and internet services often lack. Radio and television remain essential for receiving emergency alerts and instructions in areas with spotty or no internet connectivity. They are lifelines connecting tribal communities with critical information, emergency services, and support networks when disaster strikes.


Climate change has made emergency preparedness more critical than ever. Increasingly severe weather events, such as hurricanes, wildfires, and flooding, threaten tribal communities nationwide. As these disasters become more frequent and unpredictable, the EAS test becomes invaluable for ensuring that tribal communities receive timely and accurate alerts. These tests help to refine and improve our state and Tribal emergency alert systems, providing a working and effective national system that serves everyone.


Moreover, the national EAS test provides tribal communities with an opportunity to raise awareness about the unique challenges they face during emergencies. These tests can highlight the urgent need for improved infrastructure, including broadband access and reliable transportation systems. It's a platform for advocacy, a chance to hear the voices of these often-overlooked communities and address their concerns.


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