Don’t panic, it’s just a test: FEMA & FCC to test emergency systems Wednesday

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Look for this message to show up on your cellphone Wednesday afternoon

WASHINGTON, D.C. (KTAL/KMSS) – You don’t need to run for the bunker or break out the old bugout bag when an emergency alert blasts out on your mobile device, radio or television Wednesday afternoon. Just breathe -it’s only a test.

FEMA and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) are planning to test the nation’s public alert and warning systems at 1:20 p.m. central daylight time. FEMA regularly performs tests on the systems to make sure they’re in good working order, tweak them if they find any glitches, and identify any improvements needed to make the warning system even better.

This week’s testing will be the sixth test of the nationwide public alert and warning systems and has been planned since June 2020.

The purpose is to assess the effectiveness of the Emergency Alert System (EAS) to receive and convey a national message via radio and television and of the Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) ability to deliver a test message to mobile phones.

The EAS national test is very similar to regular monthly tests done by state authorities. During the test, radios and televisions across the country may interrupt normal programming to play the EAS test message.

The message may be delivered in English or Spanish. The EAS test message is approximately one minute long and the audio will say:

“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. No action is required.”    

The visual message, which will only be displayed on televisions, may vary depending on the station.

The message will include, at a minimum, who is delivering it, the event, location, valid time period of the message and the time the message was transmitted.

For example, the text may read: “A Primary Entry Point system has issued a National Periodic Test for all of the United States beginning at 2:20 p.m. and ending at 2:50 p.m. on AUG 11, 2021 (station ID).”

The test message sent to the WEA infrastructure will only be received by specially configured phones and will read:

“THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed.”

Only phones that have been opted in specifically to receive system test messages will display the test message, which will be in either English or Spanish, depending on the device’s language settings.

Most mobile phones will not display the test message; however, people who have compatible phones will automatically receive real emergency alerts on their phones (even if they don’t receive the test message). 

Instructions for how to opt-in to receive the test message on mobile devices can be found here.

Through this test, FEMA and the FCC are partnering with various agencies and other stakeholder groups to assess information about the performance of the opt-in WEA test. This includes emergency managers and other stakeholders from the National Weather Service, Harris County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management in Texas and the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, and more.

In addition, the FCC will gather information about EAS and WEA test performance directly from communications providers.

More information about WEA and EAS can be found at Integrated Public Alert & Warning System | FEMA.gov.

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