When I was watching television, especially when I was younger, I sometimes heard a loud noise, followed by either a test message, or a genuine emergency broadcasts, like an Amber alert.

The first signal sounded like short bursts of packets, which usually lasted around 1100 ms. Then there was another 1100 ms pause, and then it would repeat an additional two or three times. Sometimes these bursts are shorter, like around 300 ms long, but the pause is about the same length. Most of the time I would also hear a combination of 853 Hz and 960 Hz tones. I am assuming this is the attention signal.

Since this was before June 12, 2009, I was using over the air analogue television, also known as the national television standards committee (NTSC). Also, I think the encoded marker is also known as a tail preamble.

  • What devices are able to read these messages and display them as text?
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    $\begingroup$ A minute of googling for NTSC "EAS SAME" yielded this list of SDR software with some supporting EAS/SAME. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 19, 2019 at 21:51
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    $\begingroup$ Could probably edit the question, but after looking at that list, it didn’t really help much. I guess I’m tired of wondering if it is there to help people who cannot hear, like the deaf and hard of hearing? Are there any physical hardware devices that can read that’s fitting? $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 20, 2019 at 0:17
  • $\begingroup$ Well, as said, an SDR + Software can do that. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 20, 2019 at 10:46
  • $\begingroup$ I just stumbled on this article. Emergency Alert System and Amateur Radio $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 7, 2019 at 7:02

2 Answers 2


Yes, what you are hearing is digital data encoded into the audio stream. These can be decoded by devices that understand the digital data, such as a dedicated weather radio like this one that came up in an Amazon search:

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The audio signal does catch the attention of people because it sounds kind of like a warning buzz. But that is a secondary benefit, its primary purpose is to transmit the digital information about what kind of weather alert is coming up where.

  • $\begingroup$ Do the NOAA stations broadcast all the same alerts as TV stations, or is it limited to weather events? $\endgroup$
    – mrog
    Commented Feb 20, 2019 at 18:52
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    $\begingroup$ @mrog: I believe EAS is normally all the same alerts. Note that the alerts themselves have location information encoded in them (by county), so a dedicated receiver can be programmed to be more specific than a TV station (which will show alerts for all counties that can receive the broadcast). $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 20, 2019 at 18:55
  • $\begingroup$ I just found out that NOAA has a phone number, as well as a web site, where you can look up the six-digit SAME code for your county. +1(800) 697-7263 and nws.noaa.gov/nwr/indexnw.htm Some manufacturers also have NOAA weather-radios that are compatible with central alert systems for the D/deaf and hard-of-hearing. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 3, 2019 at 1:57

EAS Endecs

A Sage EAS Endec

Another answer mentioned NOAA Weather Radios. While these do automatically decode alerts, they can only decode alerts on NWR frequencies, and most don't have persistent logging. EAS endecs don't have these limitations. These devices are designed for TV and radio stations. Each station's endec listens to a commercial radio station and often a NOAA Weather Radio station. The endec decodes SAME headers on frequencies it's set up to monitor. SAME headers convey information that includes the originator of the message, the type of alert being sent, and the locations it affects. If the alert is for the station's area, and the endec isn't programmed to ignore the alert type, it interrupts the station's programming to retransmit the message.

Endecs keep detailed logs, but I don't know if they also log the raw decoded header. The raw text can be easily displayed with software such as SeaTTY and dsame, but for hardware solutions, endecs are the closest to your question that I'm aware of. While they're only intended for use by TV and radio stations, endecs can be found on eBay for as low as $80, and you can legally own and use them as an unlicensed individual as long as you don't transmit any SAME headers on the air. Anyone who does might be subject to "substantial monetary forfeitures."


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