Nationwide alert coming to cell phones, TVs, and radios

In exactly a month from now, cell phones, TVs, and radios across the U.S. will all sound an alarm at around the same time. But there’s no need to panic — it’s just a test.

At about 2:20 p.m. ET on Wednesday, October 4, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will hold a nationwide test of their Emergency Alert System (EAS) and Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA).

The test is designed to make sure that the alert systems are ready to warn citizens in the event of an emergency, especially ones that have a national impact.

It’s the second such nationwide test for cell phones and the seventh for TVs and radios.

The WEA drill should arrive on cell phones within 30 minutes of the designated time and will show the message: “This is a test of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed.”

The EAS test for televisions and radios will last for about a minute and broadcast a similar message.

As noted by the New York Times, while it’s important to periodically test the nationwide alert system, there are few situations in which the entire country will need to receive such a notification, with most emergency events occurring locally and therefore resulting in alerts being sent out by local and state authorities.

The U.S. has been sending emergency alerts to cell phones for more than a decade and occasional tests are necessary to ensure the system is working as designed. The U.K. carried out a similar test in April for cell phone users there.

Just one other point to keep in mind: If by some bizarre twist of fate an extreme weather event or some other emergency situation occurs at around the time that the test is due to take place on October 4, then the test will be postponed and rescheduled for Wednesday, October 11.

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