Image courtesy FEMA

FEMA, in coordination with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), will conduct a nationwide test of the emergency Alert System and Wireless Emergency Alerts at approximately 1:20 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 4.

The WEA portion of the test will be directed to all consumer cell phones. The test message will display in either English or in Spanish, depending on the language settings of the wireless handset. The EAS portion of the test will be sent to radios and televisions. In case the Oct. 4 test is postponed due to widespread severe weather or other significant events, the back-up testing date is Oct. 11.

“We know that in emergencies, every second counts. This system puts warnings where people will see them so they have time to react accordingly,” said John Dooley, deputy statewide interoperability coordinator with the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Emergency Communication Networks division. “This system saves lives — but only if it works. That’s why testing it ahead of emergencies is so critical.”

All wireless phones should receive the message only once. The following can be expected from the nationwide WEA test:

  • Beginning at approximately 1:20 p.m. CT, cell towers will broadcast the test for approximately 30 minutes. During this time, WEA-compatible wireless phones 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.
  • For consumers, the message that appears on their phones will read: “THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed.”
  • Phones with the main menu set to Spanish will display: “ESTA ES UNA PRUEBA del Sistema Nacional de Alerta de Emergencia. No se necesita acción.”

Important information about the EAS test:

  • The EAS portion of the test is scheduled to last approximately one minute and will be conducted with the participation of radio and television broadcasters, cable systems, satellite radio and television providers and wireline video providers.
  • The test message will be similar to the regular monthly EAS test messages with which the public is familiar. It will state: “This is a nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System, issued by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, covering the United States from 13:20 to 13:50 hours CT. This is only a test. No action is required by the public.”

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 purpose of the Oct. 4 test is to ensure that the systems continue to be effective means of warning the public about emergencies, particularly those on the national level.

“When a tornado is coming, you need to know your warning system works; you don’t have time for troubleshooting,” Dooley said. “This annual test gives us confidence in our technology and our ability to protect our friends, neighbors and loved ones across the state — and across the country.”