Feds test nationwide emergency alert system today

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FEMA and the FCC will send Americans a pair of emergency alerts today.
FEMA and the FCC will send Americans a pair of emergency alerts today.
Photo: FEMA

Your iPhone could send out a pair of alerts this afternoon, but they aren’t ones you’ve set yourself. Instead, they’re from the U.S. government, and both are test messages.

The goal is to try out a pair of systems set up to notify the public of emergencies. Again, these are only tests.

These alerts will come from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The intent is to conduct a nationwide test of the Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) and Emergency Alert System (EAS).

Details of the WEA emergency alerts

The WEA portion of the test will commence at 2:18 p.m. EDT. That’s 11:18 PDT. It will last for approximately 30 minutes during which compatible cell phones will receive a test message a single time.

This message will have a header that reads “Presidential Alert” and text that says “THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed.”

The WEA system is used to warn the public about dangerous weather, missing children, and other critical situations.

Details of the EAS emergency alerts

The EAS test will begin at 2:20 p.m. EDT, and it’s scheduled to last for just a minute.  

It will state:

“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.”

The EAS is a national public warning system that provides the U.S. President with the communications capability to address the nation during a national emergency.