If you’re smartphone starts blaring with an emergency alert on Wednesday, don’t panic. It’s part of a nationwide test of the U.S.’s integrated public alert and warning system.
The national test is about making sure the Wireless Emergency Alerts and Emergency Alert System are in ship shape in case of emergencies, particular ones that affect the whole country. The test is scheduled to take place around 2:20 p.m. ET on Wednesday.
The integrated public alert and warning system was created after President George W. Bush signed an executive order directing the Homeland Security Department to create a comprehensive system for the U.S. IPAWS, as it is known, pulls together older TV alert systems with newer cellular-based ones to cover more devices, from your TV to the smartphone. The Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Federal Communications Commission worked together to develop the system.
The increasing frequency of disasters like the wildfires in Hawaii, severe storms in Texas and Hurricane Idalia in Florida make the need for an alert system far more critical.
On Wednesday, wireless carriers will transmit the test signal across the country for 30 minutes, although your phone will only ring the one time.
If the test is delayed, the backup test date will be on October 11.