What to know about national emergency testing on October 4: NPR

The first test of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s National Wireless Emergency System is shown on a cellular phone in 2018. This year’s test will be like this.

Paul Sancia/AP


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Paul Sancia/AP


The first test of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s National Wireless Emergency System is shown on a cellular phone in 2018. This year’s test will be like this.

Paul Sancia/AP

Consider yourself warned. The central government will conduct a nationwide trial of the Emergency Alert System on Wednesday afternoon.

Test messages are sent to all cell phones, televisions and radios. The test emits a sound and – on phones – a vibration.

Federal Emergency Management Agency and Federal Communications Commission Conducts the test In preparation for a real emergency. The purpose of the test is to ensure that the emergency messaging system can function smoothly when Americans are threatened by natural disasters, terrorism or other threats to public safety.

You may be familiar with the vibration sounds that accompany National Weather Service alerts and AMBER (America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response) alerts. Cell phone alerts on Wednesday will be sent via the same wireless system.

When does the test take place?

It begins on Wednesday, October 4 at 2:20 pm ET.

The test window runs for 30 minutes, but you should only receive the message once. If there is a real emergency that day, the test can be postponed – a backup test is scheduled for the following week.

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What will the test message look like?

On cell phones, the warning reads:

“This is a test of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action required.” Phones set to Spanish will display: “This is a test of the National Emergency Alert System. No action required.”

Television and radio will announce:

“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 ET. This is a test only. No action by the public is required.”

Why is testing happening?

FEMA is required by law to conduct national tests of the Integrated Public Warning and Alert System (IPAWS) at least once every three years. The last national test was held in 2021.

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