YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Rumors are spreading about a blackout that is going to happen this weekend after a big explosion in the sky.
It’s easy to catch the urgency from the messages that are floating around online, threatening an electronic magnetic pulse going through North America. Some posts read “the threat is real,” “the U.S. intelligence community doesn’t have full resources,” and others bearing doomsday language.
Several calls came into the WKBN newsroom about the rumors, but it didn’t take much effort to find out the truth. The rumor is false, but it goes to show how people will believe even the wildest things that are posted on the internet.
“We think because a friend is sharing this stuff, we think that somehow legitimizes what we are seeing when that friend has not gone out and done homework to see whether this is real or fake news,” said Adam Earnheardt, Youngstown State University Department of Communication.
The real news is this: The Defense Department and local radio operators are doing a nationwide test this weekend. It’s a simulation of a solar storm and impacts of a failure of the power grid.
Radio operators will jump on the air during the test and start asking questions. There are ten that will be addressed asking if the lights are on and water is still running, and they will report the answers.
“The military transmits on frequencies they are allocated and we transmit on frequencies we are allocated, but we each can listen to each other and the messages can be passed,” said Dave Brett, radio operator.
The test comes as North Korea is mouthing off about launching an Electro Magnetic Pulse. The timing is a coincidence, and people are crossing fact with threats.
“They used to say this is only a test. That is what this is. It’s only a test,” said Mark Haverstock, radio operator.
No one will know the test is taking place unless they are near an amateur radio operator and can listen. There will be no actual power outages.
“It is kind of sad that people aren’t turning to KBN and local media. They will believe the internet before they believe local media, which is sad,” said Frank Sole, radio operator.
The test has been done every three months for the last five years, and there has never been a problem.