Don’t be alarmed if your smartphone starts ringing randomly in October. The Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, is coordinating with the Federal Communications Commission to conduct a nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System and Wireless Emergency Alerts.
The WEA test will be sent to all consumer cell phones using FEMA’s Integrated Public Alert and Warning System. While this is the third nationwide test, it is only the second time mobile devices will be specifically tested. The EAS test will run on radios and televisions as a Common Alerting Protocol from the Integrated Public Alert And Warning System-Open Platform for Emergency Networks, the seventh nationwide test.
FEMA and the FCC are working with EAS participants, wireless providers, emergency managers, and other stakeholders to prepare for the test. These systems need to be in proper working order to protect public safety and minimize confusion during an emergency, especially on a nationwide scale.
The WEA will direct cell towers to broadcast the test for approximately 30 minutes. Phones that are turned on, within range of an active tower, and have service through a participating wireless provider will get the one-time message reading “THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed.”
The EAS test is scheduled for 1 minute and aired over the radio and television broadcasters, cable systems, satellite radio, television providers, and wireline video providers. The message is similar to the typical test alert. It will say, “This is a nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System, issued by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, covering the United States from 14:20 to 14:50 hours ET. This is only a test. No action is required by the public.”
The tests are scheduled for Wednesday, October 4 at 2:20 p.m. ET unless there is widespread severe weather or other significant events, in which case the tests will begin October 11. The system needs to be clear for use in the event of an actual emergency.
Depending on the language settings on your phone, the message will be displayed in English or Spanish.