Here’s why you might see a message from the president pop up on your phone

(HNNDaily Photo/courtesy of FEMA)
(Southside Daily Photo/courtesy of FEMA)

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, in coordination with the Federal Communications Commission, will conduct a nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System and Wireless Emergency Alerts on Oct. 3.

The WEA portion of the test commences at 2:18 p.m. EDT and the EAS portion will follow at 2:20 p.m. EDT that day.

FEMA said the test will access the operational readiness of the infrastructure for distribution of a national message and determine whether improvements are needed.

WEA’s first national test will be sent to cellphones that are connected to wireless providers participating in WEA.

This is the fourth EAS nationwide test.

The EAS is a national public warning system that provides the president with the communications capability to address the nation during a national emergency.

The test is made available to EAS participants (i.e., radio and television broadcasters, cable systems, satellite radio and television providers, and wireline video providers) and is scheduled to last approximately one minute.

The test message will be similar to regular monthly EAS test messages with which the public is familiar.

The EAS message will include a reference to the WEA test:

“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. A similar wireless emergency alert test message has been sent to all cell phones nationwide. Some cell phones will receive the message; others will not. No action is required.”

Cell towers will broadcast the WEA test for approximately 30 minutes beginning at 2:18 p.m. EDT.

During that time, WEA compatible cellphones that are switched on, within range of an active cell tower, and whose wireless provider participates in WEA should be capable of receiving the test message.

Some cellphones will not receive the test message, capable cellphones should only receive the message once.

The WEA test message will have a header that reads “Presidential Alert” and text that says:

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

The WEA system is used to warn the public about dangerous weather, missing children, and other critical situations through alerts on cellphones.

The national test will use the same special tone and vibration as with all WEA messages (i.e. Tornado Warning, AMBER Alert). Users cannot opt out of the WEA test.

To learn more about FEMA, click here. 

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John Mangalonzo (john@localvoicemedia.com) is the managing editor of Local Voice Media’s Virginia papers – WYDaily (Williamsburg), Southside Daily (Virginia Beach) and HNNDaily (Hampton-Newport News). Before coming to Local Voice, John was the senior content editor of The Bellingham Herald, a McClatchy newspaper in Washington state. Previously, he served as city editor/content strategist for USA Today Network newsrooms in St. George and Cedar City, Utah. John started his professional journalism career shortly after graduating from Lyceum of The Philippines University in 1990. As a rookie reporter for a national newspaper in Manila that year, John was assigned to cover four of the most dangerous cities in Metro Manila. Later that year, John was transferred to cover the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines. He spent the latter part of 1990 to early 1992 embedded with troopers in the southern Philippines as they fought with communist rebels and Muslim extremists. His U.S. journalism career includes reporting and editing stints for newspapers and other media outlets in New York City, California, Texas, Iowa, Utah, Colorado and Washington state.