National emergency alert systems to be tested on October 3

Tuesday, October 2, 2018 - 7:58pm

BEEEEEEEEP!  “This is a test of the Emergency Alert System.”    

Many of us know that familiar test from radio and TV, and on Oct. 3, people in the United States will receive it for the first time on their cell phones.  
The Federal Emergency Management Agency, in coordination with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), will conduct a nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System (EAS) and Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) on October 2, 2018 beginning at 2:18 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time.  The original date for the test was September 20, 2018, but the ongoing response to Hurricane Florence prompted officials to delay the test.

The WEA portion of the test on cellular phone begins at 2:18 p.m. EDT and the EAS portion on radio and TV follows at 2:20 p.m. EDT.  The test will assess ability to distribute a national alert message and determine whether technological improvements are needed.

This is the fourth nationwide EAS test and the first national WEA test. Previous EAS national tests were conducted in September 2011, 2016 and 2017 in collaboration with the FCC, broadcasters, and emergency management officials during FEMA’s National Preparedness Month.

The WEA test message will be sent to cell phones throughout the entire United States and its territories on October 3 at 2:18 p.m. EDT.  It will cause an audible alert tone on phones and the message will read: 
“THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed.”

Since the WEA test message is being sent at the Presidential alert classification, it should be received on most cell phones, even if the emergency alerts setting on the phone is turned off.  There is no ability to opt out of a Presidential alert.  WEA is a voluntary program with most major cellular providers participating, but some smaller carriers do not participate.  The message will not be received is a phone is turned off, out of range of a cellular tower, or if it is an older cellular phone that is not WEA capable.

There is no need to take any action upon receiving the test message.   Do not panic or call 911 to ask questions when you receive the test message.  

Organizations that will be holding meetings or large gatherings on Wednesday, October 3 during the 2 p.m. EDT hour may want to inform their audiences about the test, so people are not surprised by the alert tone from cell phones at 2:18 p.m., and so it does not disrupt their event and cause unnecessary alarm. 

The test of the Emergency Alert System (EAS) on radio and TV will follow at 2:20 p.m. EDT with this message:
“THIS IS A TEST of the National Emergency Alert System. This system was developed by broadcast and cable operators in voluntary cooperation with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Federal Communications Commission, and local authorities to keep you informed in the event of an emergency. If this had been an actual emergency an official message would have followed the tone alert you heard at the start of this message. A similar wireless emergency alert test message has been sent to all cell phones nationwide. Some cell phones will receive the message; others will not. No action is required.”

About this test on Oct. 3:
From FEMA: https://www.fema.gov/news-release/2018/07/23/nationwide-test-emergency-a...
From the FCC: https://docs.fcc.gov/public/attachments/DA-18-752A1.pdf
About Wireless Emergency Alerts:
From FCC: https://www.fcc.gov/consumers/guides/wireless-emergency-alerts-wea
From CTIA: https://www.ctia.org/consumer-resources/wireless-emergency-alerts