Your electronic devices may sound an alarm on Wednesday as FEMA tests a nationwide emergency alert on cell phones, wireless devices, radios and TVs. However, there is no need to take action after receiving the alert.
In coordination with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), FEMA will conduct the nationwide emergency alert test at approximately 2:20 p.m. ET. This is part of a standard test that has happened at least once every three years since 2015 as FEMA is required under federal law to test the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System.
What Is an Emergency Alert?
The emergency alert messages that make up the test consist of two groups—the Emergency Alert System (EAS) for radios and televisions, and the Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) for wireless phones—which both are scheduled to happen at the same time.
According to FEMA, the national test is conducted to help ensure that WEA and the EAS continue to be effective ways to warn the public about emergencies, particularly those on the national level.
Wednesday will mark the seventh nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System as six previous tests were conducted over the years between November 2011 and August 2021.
This will also be the third nationwide test of wireless alerts, and the second nationwide test transmitted to all cell phones, FEMA said in a statement.
What Will Happen During the Test?
The Wireless Emergency Alerts portion of the test will use FEMA’s Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS), a centralized internet-based system used by FEMA that allows authorities to send authenticated emergency messages to the public through multiple communication networks. The WEA test will be administered via a code sent to cell phones as phones should only receive the message once, according to FEMA.
At the designated time, cell towers will broadcast the test for approximately 30 minutes. During this time, compatible wireless phones that are on, within range of an active cell tower, and whose wireless provider participates in WEA, should be receiving the test message.
The message will read: “THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed.”
For those who have set their phones to Spanish, the message will read: “ESTA ES UNA PRUEBA del Sistema Nacional de Alerta de Emergencia. No se necesita acción.”
The Emergency Alert System test, impacting radios and TVs, is scheduled to launch at the same time, but will only last for one minute.
When it launches, the test will interrupt regular television and radio programming, regardless of which channel you’re watching or which station you’re tuned into, to broadcast a message that says: “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.”