By Ian Bush

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — If you’re listening to the radio or watching TV at 2:20 p.m. on Wednesday, September 28th, you should witness a test of the National Emergency Alert System. It’s only the second in history — and the first didn’t go so well.

Instead of those squelchy, screeching tones, some people in 2011 heard static, an echo, or other distortion on the radio.

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“On DirecTV, the alert graphic went out, but somehow Lady Gaga’s ‘Paparazzi’ got played as the audio,” says Mark Fletcher, chief architect of worldwide public safety solutions at Avaya. “Others saw a visual message on the TV but there was no audio or there was a distorted audio, which could be a problem for a blind person.”

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This time the feds will simulate an emergency code as if the president was authorizing it because of some disaster. The idea is that he or she should be able to get an emergency message to the entire country within 10 minutes of the alert being activated.

“The Emergency Alert System is a way for getting the word out to citizens,” Fletcher says. “The president can push a button and alert the entire country and ultimately speak to the entire country.”

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What’s unclear, Fletcher says, is whether the test will be billed as such. It’ll lead to much confusion if not.