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What you need to know about FEMA's 'Presidential Alert' emergency alert system test on Wednesday

October 01, 2018; 9:57 AM


Nearly every cell phone user across the United States will receive a text message on the same day at the same time. The message will be titled "Presidential Alert."

The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), in coordination with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), will conduct a nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System (EAS) and Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) system on Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2018.

The WEA test message will begin being sent at 2:18 p.m. EDT. The EAS message will be sent at 2:20 p.m. EDT.

Presidential alert

(FEMA)


The test was originally planned for Thursday, Sept. 20, but was postponed due to ongoing response efforts to Hurricane Florence.

This will be the first nationwide Presidential-level WEA test. The message will test a system allowing President Donald Trump, as well as future presidents, to send out nationwide emergency messages.

It will be the fourth EAS nationwide test. Previous EAS national tests were conducted in November 2011, September 2016 and September 2017 in collaboration with the FCC, broadcasters and emergency management officials in recognition of FEMA's National Preparedness Month.

Cell towers will broadcast the WEA test for approximately 30 minutes beginning at 2:18 p.m. EDT. During this time, WEA compatible cell 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.

Some cell phones will not receive the test message, and cell phones should only receive the message once. It cannot be opted out.

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The WEA test 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."

WEA is used to warn the public about dangerous weather, missing children and other critical situations through alerts on cell phones.

The test will allow FEMA to "assess the operational readiness of the infrastructure for distribution of a national message to determine whether improvements are needed."

The WEA test will be followed by the EAS portion at 2:20 p.m. EDT, which is a nationwide emergency alert test on broadcast television and radio.

The EAS test message will be similar to regular monthly EAS test messages. It typically interrupts programming for approximately one minute.

The EAS message will read: "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."

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