FEMA and the FCC are conducting a dual test of the Emergency Alert System (EAS) and Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) on Wednesday at about 2:20PM ET. The test will transmit to cell phones in either English or Spanish, depending on the language you have set, as well as radios and TVs. We regret to inform you that, unlike the national alert that went out in 2021, you can’t opt out of this one — It will come to every active cellphone that’s capable of receiving it if it’s switched on and connected to a cell tower. You may recall getting the Presidential Alert test in 2018 despite having turned off such alerts on your phone.
FEMA says that the test will “ensure that the systems continue to be effective means of warning the public about emergencies, particularly those on the national level.” Legislation passed in 2015 requires FEMA to test the Integrated Public Alert & Warning System (IPAWS) at least once every three years. FEMA published a video on Monday discussing the IPAWS test:
According to a FAQ on the FEMA website, the test won’t interrupt a phone call. When it hits, it will be accompanied by a loud tone and a message that reads, “THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed.” The test will only be broadcast during a 30-minute window, so if you don’t want your phone to start blaring, turning it off should do the trick, according to FEMA:
If a phone is off before the test alert is sent and not turned back on until after the WEA Test expires (approximately 30 minutes), the phone should not get the test message.
So maybe 2:20PM ET today is a good time to get that customer service call you’ve been avoiding out of the way — even if you know you’ll be spending a lot of time listening to hold music, even if the music is an absolute bop.
Update October 4th, 2023, 11:55AM ET: Updated to reflect today’s test.