Americans will receive a nationwide emergency test alert on their cellphones, TVs, and radios on Wednesday at 2:20 p.m. ET. to test the wireless alert systems. The test will be conducted to ensure that the system’s automated response continues to operate efficiently in case of a public emergency.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced it will be issuing the test in an August news release and the phone emergency test will say: “THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed.” The Emergency Alert System (EAS) and Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) will be sent out as scheduled, but FEMA said in its release that both tests will be postponed in the case of “widespread severe weather or other significant events.” The backup date for both tests is Oct. 11.
The tests will continue for roughly 30 minutes and the alert will be displayed in Spanish for phones set to the language through the main menu.
A separate message issued on radios and televisions 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.”
FEMA addressed possible concerns on its site, assuring people that the national test will not be used to gather private data and is simply “designed to evaluate the effectiveness of the systems in sending an emergency message.” It said rumors that people will have to cancel or dismiss the alert in order to use their phone or that their device will continue to sound for the entire 30 minutes is not the case. It also said that posts urging people to turn off their phones, claiming “the alerts are harmful due to high-frequency signals” is also false.
FEMA says in its press release that the test will sound off on cellphones regardless of whether the notification option is activated and despite the phone being set to vibrate mode. Legislation passed in 2015 requires FEMA to conduct a test every three years to ensure that Americans receive alerts within 10 minutes of a public or weather-related emergency including natural disasters, terrorism, and other public safety warnings.
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