FEMA and FCC Collaborate for Nationwide Emergency Alert Test on Oct. 4: TV, Radio, and Cell Phones to Receive Test Messages

By Evelina Rivers
Published October 03, 2023

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Washington D.C – On, October 4, FEMA in collaboration with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), will carry out a nationwide trial of the Emergency Alert System (EAS) and Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA).

The nationwide tests will be divided into two parts, assessing Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) and Emergency Alert System (EAS) functionalities. The tests are planned to commence around 1:20 p.m. Central Time on Wednesday, October 4.

The WEA component of the test will be sent to consumer mobile phones. This will be the third test conducted across the country, but it will be the second one targeting all WEA-compatible mobile devices. The test message will appear in either English or Spanish, based on the language preferences set on the wireless device.

The segment of the test related to the Emergency Alert System (EAS) will be transmitted to radios and TVs. This will mark the seventh time such a test is conducted on a national scale.

FEMA and the FCC are working in collaboration with EAS participants, telecommunication companies, emergency managers, and other interested parties in preparation for this nationwide trial to reduce any misunderstanding and optimize the public safety benefits of the tests.

The objective of the test is to verify the continued efficiency of systems used to alert the populace about national emergencies. Should severe weather or other major occurrences cause a delay of the test originally scheduled on October 4, a contingency date of October 11 has been set for the test.

The part of the test related to the Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) will be triggered through FEMA’s Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS). This system is operated by FEMA over the internet and allows officials to distribute verified emergency messages to the public via a variety of communication networks. The WEA test will be conducted by sending out a coded message to mobile phones.

This year, the EAS message will be distributed using the Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) through the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System-Open Platform for Emergency Networks (IPAWS-OPEN).

Every mobile device should get the alert just one time. Here’s what you can anticipate from the countrywide WEA examination:

  • Starting around 1:20 p.m. Central Time, cell towers will transmit a test signal for about half an hour. During this period, wireless phones compatible with the WEA system, which are turned on, within the coverage area of a functioning cell tower, and located in a region where their wireless carrier is a WEA participant, should be able to receive this test message.
  • For customers, the notification that shows up on their mobile devices will say: “THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is necessary.”
  • Los teléfonos que tienen el menú principal configurado en español mostrarán:  “ESTA ES UNA PRUEBA del Sistema Nacional de Alerta de Emergencia.  No se necesita acción.”
  • Just like when your phone gets an Amber Alert, the emergency warning alert (WEA) tone usually only rings when your phone first gets the alert. On certain devices, the sound stops as soon as the user presses a button.
  • Should a phone be switched off prior to the test alert being dispatched and remained off until the Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) Test expires (roughly 30 minutes later), the device is not likely to receive the test message.

Government agencies at various levels – federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial – are permitted to compose and distribute WEA alerts via the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS). These alerts are then circulated by participating wireless service providers to suitable mobile devices within specified geographical regions. The alerts are designed to reach all citizens, including those with disabilities. Thus, they are accompanied by a distinct sound and vibration.

Crucial details regarding the EAS test:

  • The Emergency Alert System (EAS) segment of the examination is planned to take roughly one minute. This process will be implemented in collaboration with radio and television networks, cable providers, satellite radio and TV services, and wired video providers.
  • The content of the trial message will mirror the standard monthly EAS test messages that the public is used to. Its wording will be: “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.”