WASHINGTON--For the first time, the FCC and Federal Emergency Management Agency will conduct a national Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) test, Oct. 3 the agencies said last Friday. The test will run simultaneously with a national EAS test, which is the fourth such test since they started in 2011.
Both tests are part of the International Public Alert System (IPAWS) National Test. The WEA, known as the “Presidential Alert,” portion is scheduled to begin at 2:18 p.m. EDT, followed by EAS portion at 2:20 p.m. EDT.
For the “Presidential Alert,” cell towers will send the test for about 30 minutes, starting at 2:18 p.m. EDT, and Only cell phones within range of cell towers whose wireless provider participates in the WEA program will be able to receive the test message. More than 100 providers currently participate in the WEA program. FEMA officials expect “75 percent of the phones to receive the message.”
FEMA originally scheduled the IPAWS alert for Sept. 20 but cancelled it due to ongoing response efforts to Hurricane Florence. The IPAWS test is required every three years.
During the alert FEMA will access the system’s “operational readiness” and monitor for any abnormalities. Only a presidential “designee” can conduct a test.
The “Presidential Alerts” are one of three that go out over the WEA system. The other two are for dangerous weather events and AMBER Alerts. Presidential Alerts are only used in cases of “public peril” or “imminent attacks,” such as multiple terrorist attacks.
In January, cell phones in Hawaii received a false alarm text message on the WEA system alerting residents of a ballistic missile attack. FEMA and FCC officials said the WEA system test scheduled for Oct. 3 is unrelated to that false alarm.
The message for the WEA portion will read: "Presidential Alert: This is a test of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed."
The EAS test message will read as follows:
“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.”