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October 02, 2023

FEMA to send emergency alert test message to all US cell phones, radios and TVs on Wednesday

The federal agency says the purpose of the test, which begins at 2:20 p.m., is to ensure that its systems are effective in warning the public about national emergencies

When an emergency alert blares on your cell phone on Wednesday afternoon, don't be alarmed — it's just a test. 

The Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Federal Communications Commission will test its Wireless Emergency Alerts at approximately 2:20 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 4. The nationwide test will be directed to all cell phones in the United States. A separate test of the Emergency Alert System will be sent to radios and televisions at the same time.

Cell towers across the United States will broadcast the test for about 30 minutes. During this time, all cell phones that are turned on and within the range of an active cell tower will receive a test message from the federal agencies. This message will state: "THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed." 

Those whose primary language on their cell phone is set to Spanish will receive a translated version of the original message. To ensure that the alerts are accessible to everyone, including people with disabilities, the alerts will be accompanied by a tone and vibration similar to AMBER Alerts and emergency weather alerts. Phones will receive the message once during the 30-minute period. 

The separate test of the EAS will be conducted on radios and televisions for about one minute beginning at 2:20 p.m. on Wednesday. The test will be conducted on AM, FM and satellite radio and broadcast, cable and satellite TV. The test message will be similar to the monthly emergency alert tests that have been appearing on television and radio programs since 1997.

The message will read: "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." 

FEMA says the reason for the test is to ensure that both systems continue to be effective in warning the public about emergencies, particularly those on the national level. If Wednesday's test is postponed due to inclement weather, the backup testing date is scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 11. 

The WEA and EAS are part of the federal Integrated Public Alert and Warning System, a national system used to provide potentially life-saving information to the public. The messages sent through these systems are only delivered in emergent situations when protective actions, like shelter-in-place orders or evacuations, are needed. IPAWS is tested at least once every three years.

Though people cannot opt out of this test, there are ways to opt out of other WEA messages.

Social media users have spread bogus, baseless claims that the emergency alert tests will activate chemicals in people's bodies that have been placed there via COVID-19 vaccines, USA Today reported. 

While the conspiracy theories appear to have originated from longer-held myths about the vaccines, the Associated Press released a fact-check of the theories to ensure that there is nothing nefarious about the test.