The CONELRAD System and the Internet

Last Updated on June 3, 2020 by

One of the benefits of social networking on a mass scale is the massive amount of information that can be brought to the attention of the general public in the event of a nuclear incident or other sudden emergency that can affect many lives on a mass scale without requiring a radio to discover the answers right away.  Such a system is thought in many ways to be more efficient than the CONELRAD system implemented in the 1960’s for the same purpose, and may even prove to be quite helpful in alerting the public in the event of a sudden national disaster.

Prior to Harry Truman’s taking office and the development of Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) capable of carrying a massive nuclear payload across vast distances, the use of local news agencies through a network would have been required to inform the general public to get into shelters.  In these times it was expected a bomber would be observed long before an attack became eminent and a response was necessary.  But as it was tested, the program that was arranged proved to be quite ineffective, particularly since an ICBM would leave the general public with relatively little time to seek shelter in an underground vault or similar bomb shelter.  As a result, the CONELRAD system (Which means CONtrol of ELectronic RADiation) was developed to inform the public quickly if a nuclear incident did occur.  This system generally was given license to communicate emergency broadcasts in the event of a national disaster or other important announcement by the government.  But this too was considered inefficient as it only covered two radio stations that would largely require monitoring.  The Emergency Broadcast System, which you may recognize from its monthly tests, replaced CONELRAD in 1963.  But this too required the presence of a radio in order to inform the public of disaster.  Still, the EBS proved to be quite effective several times in national disasters.

But now with the proliferation of social networking sites and other means of staying in contact with the world, there have been many suggestions that an Internet based emergency broadcast system is a new avenue of alerting.  One school of thought suggests that in a national catastrophe as soon as the information was brought to the attention of the public through sites such as Twitter and Facebook, the members of these sites would work frantically to inform loved ones and with a few keystrokes could inform hundreds if not thousands who would otherwise have missed out on an emergency broadcast signal through either their cell phones and texting or through the pages themselves.  There is, however, the threat of such a massive amount of activity tying up communication lines.  This is why there have been several proposals made to suggest the use of an internet based emergency broadcast system to better inform the public of potential disasters.  With the amount of time the average spends on the Internet, there is a reciprocal shift away from traditional means of communication.  Some have also suggested that it would be easy enough to offer a service that kept users informed via a program that kept track of a signal in the background either through the government, private organizations, or a fusion of both.