The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced Monday (September 10) that an upcoming nationwide emergency alert test will be conducted on August 20, 2018. This test will include messages sent to most of our mobile phones. This will be the first nationwide Presidential-level Wireless Emergency Alert system test.

Technically it will be a joint test of the Emergency Alert System (EAS) and the Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA). You're probably familer with an EAS alert. It's the one that you hear on your radio or TV. It used to be called the Emergency Broadcast System. The WEA is a relatively new method that officials can use to spread emergency information to the public using mobile phones.

The purpose of the test on August 20 is to double-check the readiness of the system to distribute an emergency message nationwide and determine whether improvements are needed. WEA messages are sent by public safety officials to warn about dangerous situations and critical emergencies. You may have received WEA messages before for tornado or Amber Alerts.

On August 20, a test message will be sent on the EAS (to TV and Radio) and to WEA (your phone) at about 1:18 PM CST.

  • Cell towers will broadcast the WEA test for approximately 30 minutes. During this time, WEA-compatible cell phones that are switched on and within range of an active cell tower, and whose wireless carrier participates in WEA, should be capable of receiving the test message. Cell phones should receive the message only once.
  • The WEA test message will be a Presidential Alert and will read: “THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed.”

There is no need to sign-up, or opt-in, to get the messages. It's a pretty good chance that your phone will receive the alert message. FEMA reports that more than 100 phone carriers, including the largest carriers, participate in the WEA program. So, if your phone is on and in-range, expect a text message along with a special tone and vibration repeated twice.


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