FCC, FEMA to test 'Wireless Emergency Alert' system on Wednesday

Yolanda Curtis
October 3, 2018

They said a person on a call lasting 30 minutes may not get the alert as with phones with an active data connection. Here's what you need to know. Since its launch in 2012, the WEA system been used more than 40,000 times.

Don't freak out when your phone lights up and starts buzzing on Wednesday afternoon: it's only the federal government doing a nationwide test of the Presidential Alert system.

If you have a cellphone, be prepared for it to get a Presidential Alert this week - whether you want it or not.

If you're looking at another piece of glowing glass - like your television - during the test, you may just see the alert there, too.

The objective of the test is to ensure that EAS and WEA are both effective means of warning the public about emergencies, particularly those on the national level.

This marks the fourth time FEMA has conducted a national EAS test and is the first time for a national WEA test.

When are the WEA and EAS Tests Happening? This test will be conducted at 10:18 a.m.

Your cell phone will receive a national alert today, October 3, at around 2:18 pm ET.

What Happens During the WEA Test?

"The fact that you can't turn this alert off, that it will be something that will arrive on your phone whether you like it or not I think was perhaps upsetting and concerning to some people", Whitehouse said.

It's the first nationwide test of the system built by the federal government and cellphone carriers to warn Americans of an emergency, like a terror attack or a widespread disaster. "No action is needed", officials said. According to FEMA, the tests will assess the operational readiness of the infrastructure for distribution of a national message and determine whether technological improvement are needed. That includes iPhone and Android OS phones.

You can't opt out of the WEA and EAS test, nor can you disable it. It's the same tone used for severe weather alerts and AMBER alerts. Some cell phones will receive the message; others will not.

You may be reading this on Wednesday because you wonder what on Earth is going on - particularly if your phone has made a unusual noise - but there's nothing to worry about.

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