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The Obama administration quietly announced on Tuesday that it intends to change the way Americans learn about natural disasters and other major emergencies during radio and TV broadcasts, giving the president the ability to flip a switch and address the entire nation at once.
The Emergency Alert System, the latest version of a program first established in 1951, blasts out emergency messages in the event of local weather emergencies, but can also be used to warn Americans about terror attacks and major natural disasters.
Every broadcaster in the country is required to participate in the EAS. Messages travel along a closed, private network, piggybacking from station to station. It can take up to 10 minutes for every radio, TV, cable and satellite provider to blare its alert.