On Wednesday, a test of the nation’s emergency alert system will ping cell phones across the country and transmit notifications to radios and televisions.

The big picture: According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Federal Communications Commission, this is the third nationwide test of the wireless emergency warning system, but just the second for all cellphones.

The test message specifies that the alert is not for a genuine emergency.

Why it is significant: The purpose of the test, according to the federal authorities, is to ensure that “systems continue to be effective means of warning the public about emergencies, particularly those at the national level.”

The system is meant to alert people about bad weather, missing children, and other “critical situations,” according to the FCC.

Since its inception in 2012, the wireless emergency warning system has been used over 84,000 times.

In October 2018, a “presidential alert” was the first test of the wireless system.

The last nationwide test of cell phone wireless alerts occurred in August 2021.
When will the FEMA emergency alert test take place?

The test begins at 2:20 p.m. ET on Oct. 4, and “cell towers will broadcast the test for approximately 30 minutes,” according to the statement.

The message should only be received once by all wireless phones.

Notably, if the Oct. 4 test is canceled due to major events such as widespread severe weather, the backup test date will be Oct. 11, according to the announcement.

Time zone emergency alert testing
By time zone, here’s when the test begins:

2:20 p.m. Eastern time
1:20 p.m. Central time
12:20 p.m., Mountain Time
11:20 a.m. in the Pacific Time Zone
10:20 a.m. Alaska standard time
8:20 a.m., Hawaii-Aleutian time

Test message for a nationwide emergency alert
Depending on the language choices of the wireless handset, the test message will appear in either English or Spanish.

“THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System,” the message on the phones will say. There is no necessity for action.”

The notice will be delivered to phones that are “switched on, within range of an active cell tower.”

FEMA warning siren
The notice is accompanied by “a unique attention signal and vibration, which is particularly helpful to people with hearing or vision-related disabilities,” according to the FCC.

If you are on the phone at the time of the alert test, the message and tone will be delayed until you hang up, according to FEMA.

Unless turned off, even phones set to mute will receive the message.

Cell phones cannot be used to suppress national notifications.

Zoom in: Those who have their notifications turned off for other warnings, such as Amber alerts, will still receive the FEMA notification, according to the FCC.

This is due to the fact that national notifications issued by the president or the FEMA administrator cannot be suppressed.

Yes, however your smartphone must be turned on and cannot be in airplane mode in order to receive the test message on Wednesday.

Some outdated phones do not receive the notifications.

TV and radio emergency alert systems are being tested.
The test on Wednesday will also be aired on radio, television, cable systems, satellite radio, and wireline video providers.

This test will last roughly one minute.

The test message will be comparable to the emergency alert system’s monthly tests.


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