Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Nationwide Emergency Alert System Test Scheduled for Wednesday Afternoon

In an effort to ensure the effectiveness of emergency communication systems across the United States, FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) is teaming up with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to conduct a nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System (EAS) and Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) on Wednesday.

The comprehensive national test, which is set to take place today, Wednesday, October 4, will consist of two segments aimed at evaluating the capabilities of WEA and EAS.

The test is scheduled to commence at approximately 2:20 p.m. Eastern Time, with the WEA portion directed at all consumer cell phones. This marks the third nationwide test of its kind but the second one that includes all cellular devices. Depending on the language settings of wireless handsets, the test message will be displayed in either English or Spanish.

Simultaneously, the EAS portion of the test will be transmitted to radios and televisions across the nation. This marks the seventh nationwide EAS test conducted to date.

To ensure the test runs smoothly and effectively, FEMA and the FCC are closely coordinating with EAS participants, wireless providers, emergency managers, and other relevant stakeholders.

The primary purpose of this October 4 test is to verify that these systems continue to serve as effective means of alerting the public about emergencies, particularly those of a national scale. In case unforeseen circumstances such as widespread severe weather or significant events arise, the backup testing date is scheduled for October 11.

The WEA portion of the test will be initiated using FEMA’s Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS), a centralized internet-based system administered by FEMA, which enables authorities to send authenticated emergency messages to the public through multiple communications networks. Cell phones will receive the WEA test through a specific code.

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

During the nationwide WEA test, cell towers will broadcast the test signal for approximately 30 minutes, starting at around 2:20 p.m. Eastern Time. To be eligible to receive the test message, WEA-compatible wireless phones must be switched on, within range of an active cell tower, and linked to a wireless provider participating in the WEA program.

For users, the message appearing on their phones will read: "THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed." Meanwhile, 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."

It's important to note that WEA alerts are generated and sent by authorized federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government agencies through IPAWS to participating wireless providers, which subsequently relay the alerts to compatible handsets within geo-targeted areas. To ensure accessibility to the entire population, including those with disabilities, these alerts are accompanied by a unique tone and vibration.

In terms of the EAS test, it is scheduled to last approximately one minute and will involve the participation of radio and television broadcasters, cable systems, satellite radio and television providers, as well as wireline video providers. The test message will closely resemble the regular monthly EAS test messages, stating: "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."