Since 2012, the US has had the Wireless Emergency Alerts program that uses Americans’ cell phones to warn them about emergencies, such as dangerous weather, missing children, and other critical situations. Today, FEMA and FCC are conducting a nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System and Wireless Emergency Alerts.

According to FEMA (via ABC News), the national test will consist of two portions, testing WEA and EAS capabilities. Both tests will begin at 2:20 p.m. ET today.

While the Wireless Emergency Alert portion of the test will be sent only to consumer cell phones where the subscriber has opted in to receive test messages, the Emergency Alert System portion of the test will be sent to radios and televisions.

This is the second nationwide WEA test but the first nationwide WEA test on a consumer opt-in basis. The test message will display in either English or in Spanish, depending on the language settings of the wireless handset. This is also the sixth nationwide EAS test.

FEMA and the FCC are coordinating with EAS participants, wireless providers, emergency managers and other stakeholders in preparation for this national test to minimize confusion and to maximize the public safety value of the test. The test is intended to ensure public safety officials have the methods and systems that will deliver urgent alerts and warnings to the public in times of an emergency or disaster.

The purpose of this test today is to ensure that the EAS and WEA systems “continue to be effective means of warning the public about emergencies.” In case this test is canceled due to widespread severe weather or other events, a backup testing date is scheduled for August 25.

Beginning at 2:20 p.m. ET, cell towers will broadcast the test for approximately 30 minutes. During this time, WEA-compatible wireless phones where the subscriber has opted in to receive test messages that are switched on, within range of an active cell tower, and whose wireless provider participates in WEA should be capable of receiving the test message. Wireless phones should receive the message only once.

For consumers who have opted in to receive WEA test messages, the message that appears on their phones will read: “THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed.”

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About the Author

José Adorno

Brazilian tech Journalist. Author at 9to5Mac. Previously at tv globo, the main TV broadcaster in Latin America.

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