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This is only a test: Emergency Alert System will be pinging cellphones Wednesday

This will be the seventh nationwide EAS test.


The Federal emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in coordination the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will hold a nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System for broadcasters (EAS) and Wireless Emergency Alerts for cellphones (WEA) this week.

It will test WEA and EAS capabilities, with both tests scheduled to begin around 2:20 p.m. ET on Wednesday.

The WEA portion of the test will be directed to all consumer cell phones. It will be the third nationwide test, but the second test of all cellular devices. The test message will display in either English or in Spanish, depending on the language settings of the wireless handset.

The EAS portion of the test will be sent to radios and televisions. This will be the seventh nationwide EAS test.

The purpose of the Wednesday test is to ensure that the systems continue to be effective means of warning the public about emergencies, particularly those on the national level. If this week's test must be postponed due to widespread severe weather or other significant events, the backup testing date will be Oct. 11. 

The WEA portion of the test will be initiated using a centralized internet-based system administered by FEMA that enables authorities to send authenticated emergency messages to the public through multiple communications networks. The WEA test will be administered via a code sent to cell phones. 

All wireless phones should receive the message only once.  Here’s how it should work:

Beginning at approximately 2:20 p.m. ET, cell towers will broadcast the test for about 30 minutes.  During this time, WEA-compatible wireless phones that are switched on, within range of an active cell tower, and whose wireless provider participates in WEA, should receive the test message, which will read, “THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed.” Phones with the main menu set to Spanish will display: “ESTA ES UNA PRUEBA del Sistema Nacional de Alerta de Emergencia. No se necesita acción.”

The EAS portion of the test, for broadcasters, cable systems, satellite radio and television providers and wireline video providers, will last about a minute and will state: “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.”

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