An operator at the Emergency Broadcast System. Photo submitted.

Pieces of the Past: The Day the Mountain Was Wrong

November 15, 2023

Feb. 20, 1971. I came to WRRN to meet up with Bob Siden, and Scott Chandler for breakfast at the Savoy (remember the Savoy restaurant?) We left the radio station to Roy Schneck for an hour while we had our weekly Saturday morning bull session.

Upon returning, Scott went on the air, Bob started his “news sweeps” and I went to work writing commercials that were due to start on Monday. It was a regular Saturday morning.

Every Saturday morning, right about 10:30 we would receive a weekly E.B.S. test on the teletype. The test would take up a lot of wasted paper. There would be 10 bells to alert stations that something from the Emergency Broadcast System, located at the National Emergency Warning Center at Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado Springs, Colorado was sending something. Instead of the usual 10 dings of the teletype bell, it kept going forever!

“This is NOT a test. This is an alert authorized by the President of the United States . . . All Non Essential Broadcast Stations are ordered off the air.” The message included the secret authenticator word and everything! I burst into the control room and reached for the proper buttons to “dump” the transmitter. “What the heck are you doing?” Chandler shouted. Cooler heads prevailed and within a minute or so the bells went off and the message “RESCIND RESCIND RESCIND” was printed out.

Only 2% of the radio stations in the nation actually went off the air that morning. Wayland Eberhardt, the lone operator in the “mountain” that morning, had fed the wrong program tape into the system. The government made huge changes after that. The most important was to vary the day and time they sent tests. Eberhardt was a civilian employee and reportedly told the nationwide media, “I have no idea how I did that!”

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