Video does not show a real nuclear attack alert in the US

27 February 2024
What was claimed

A video shows an emergency alert system has gone off in the US to warn about an imminent nuclear attack.

Our verdict

The video comes from a ‘mock scenario’ on YouTube, and there have been no such announcements from the organisations responsible for operating the Emergency Alert System in the US.

Many people have shared a video of a TV apparently displaying a warning about a nuclear attack on the United States, with claims that “the EBS [emergency broadcast system] has gone off”. 

But the video on the TV is fictional. It does not show a real emergency alert.

The clip circulating on social media shows a screen with a Great Seal symbol and text saying “Emergency Alert System” followed by claims that the “The United States has been subjected to a Nuclear Attack”. 

EBS refers to the Emergency Broadcast System, which was introduced in 1963 and was replaced by the Emergency Alert System (EAS) in 1997. 

The Emergency Alert System (EAS) is a “national public warning system that requires radio and TV broadcasters, cable TV, wireless cable systems, satellite and wireline operators to provide the president with capability to address the American people within 10 minutes during a national emergency”. 

A robotic-sounding voice in the video says there have been “nuclear missiles aimed towards the mainland United States” and that “four of the 12 missiles launched have been intercepted”.

The video has been shared on X (formerly Twitter) and Facebook with the caption: “ALERT: THE EBS HAS GONE OFF IN THE USA !!! LOS ANGELES - CHICAGO - HOUSTON - PHOENIX -NEW YORK CITY - PHILADELPHIA - SEATTLE SOMETHING BIG IS COMING !!!! [sic]”. 

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What is on the screen in the video?

The visuals on the TV come from a video posted to YouTube in March 2022, which is titled: “Real-time U.S. EAS Nuclear Attack”. However, the caption explains that it is “a realistic mock scenario for a nuclear attack on the United States” and says: “Please note that this is a fictional scenario, and any resemblance to real-world events or situations is coincidental.”

Moreover, there are no such announcements on the websites or social media channels of the organisations responsible for operating the EAS: the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NCAA)

A spokesperson for FEMA confirmed to Full Fact that the “national system has not issued an emergency alert for a nuclear attack in the United States”. 

FEMA told reporters at Reuters: “To confirm the validity of a warning, the public should check radio, federal and state social media accounts, or national media tv/websites. Any such message would be available on multiple formats simultaneously.”

We also contacted the FCC and NOAA for comment and will update this article if we receive a response. 

Of course if the video was real the US would also have already experienced a nuclear attack. There have been no reports of this happening. 

Full Fact has previously written about another video supposedly showing the BBC interrupting its programming to alert the UK to a nuclear attack, which actually came from an edited YouTube video made “just for fun”. 

We’ve also debunked many misleading claims about the UK’s emergency alert system trialled in April 2023, including that it gives the government access to people’s location, matches personal data with information collected during the pandemic, and that it is an “activation signal” for a vaccine “pathogen”

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