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While the D.C. government tried to improvise without necessary equipment or funds, that still does not excuse basic ignorance of emergency preparedness (“This Is a Test,” 9/21). If Mayor Williams believes the Emergency Broadcast System is “1950s technology,” it may be because it is not the Emergency Broadcast System anymore and has not been for years. It is now the Emergency Alert System, and it notifies agencies, broadcasters, and participating cable TV systems all automatically from the first official authorization. TV and radio stations can set up the system to post bulletins automatically or use as much or as little of the government-provided information as they feel appropriate. All the information anyone needs about it and official emergency preparations in general is available from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (www.fema.gov) and the Federal Communications Commission (http://www.fcc.gov/eb/eas).
Finally, D.C. ought to take advantage of the well-trained amateur radio operators in the region, as Virginia and Montgomery County did. Many ham-radio operators train and participate in a volunteer network (Amateur Radio Emergency Service) and a FEMA-sponsored network (Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service) that provide crucial communications support to officials to back up swamped telephone and cellular phone systems. Information is available from the Amateur Radio Relay League (www.arrl.net).