US To Test Emergency Alerts System On Wednesday What It Means

The US will send out wireless emergency alerts (WEA) on Monday to test a system that will disseminate severe weather warnings and even incidents of missing children. The text messages will be sent to all TVs, radios and cellphones to test the system that will be an essential part of America’s emergency preparednessThe Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will carry out the test in coordination with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)According to the FCC, FEMA will conduct a test of both Wireless Emergency Alerts and the Emergency Alert System (EAS) at around 2:20 pm on MondayThe system works by sending blanket signals to devices from cell towers, which means messages are not sent individually to each handset, Sutton says. “The federal government is not tracking your cellphone,” Sutton says

The WEA test is aimed at ensuring that the emergency alert systems work effectively in warning the public about emergencies. All cellphones will receive the message in either English or Spanish depending upon the language settings of the phoneCell towers will broadcast the message for about 30 minutes during which cellphones within the range of an active tower should receive the alert. The message will read, “THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is neededTo receive the test alert, users must have a WEA-compatible mobile device that is turned on. The device should also not be in airplane mode and must be within the coverage area of a cell tower and able to receive a signal from that tower. The device also has to be in the geographical area where the wireless provider participates in WEA

The WEA system was launched in 2012 and has been used more than 84,000 times since then. It is used in emergencies such as extreme weather or in other critical situationsWireless companies volunteer to participate in emergency alert tests, “which is the result of a unique public/private partnership between the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the FCC, and the United States wireless industry in order to enhance public safetyEvery powered-on smartphone in the United States within range of a cell tower is set to get an alert around 2:20 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time on Wednesday, Oct. 4, as the Federal Emergency Management Agency conducts a nationwide test of its Integrated Public Alert and Warning System, or IPAWS



Familiar tests on television and radio will happen at the same time, meaning that virtually every person in the country near a connected device will receive some version of the following message: “THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed FEMA conducts tests of the IPAWS system every three years to assess the readiness of federal government communications in the case of a major national catastrophe. What makes this year’s test unusual — and has given rise to dozens of outlandish and debunked conspiracy theories is that, unlike severe weather or Amber alerts, there is no way of opting out of the notifications being sent to smartphones

The thing that’s really unique about wireless alerts is you don’t opt into the system. You can’t turn alerts off. It’s programmed into your device,” said Jeanette Sutton, a professor at the College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security, and Cybersecurity at the University at Albany. “All of the other systems require an opt-in. It works because your device is within range of a cell tower. It’s the one way that approved governmental communicators can reach you at a moment’s notice if there’s a severe threat and you need to be warnedSutton says that these tests are valuable because they allow staff from FEMA and other agencies to familiarize themselves with little-used but extremely vital technology in the case of a national emergency. It also allows them to identify potential failures or pain points in the system of relaying vital information to a population of 330 million people

Wireless emergency alerts have not come without their problems in the past. In January 2018, during a period of escalated tensions between the United States and North Korea, millions of Hawaii residents received push notifications warning of an impending ballistic missile strike on the islandsThirty-eight agonizing minutes later, a second alert went out telling rattled Hawaiians the first message was a false alarm. State and federal investigations were launched into what went wrong and Gov. David Ige apologized. North Korean state media called the false alarm a “tragicomedy.Meetings have the potential to be briefly sidetracked and classrooms might be thrown into temporary chaos as smartphones all go off simultaneously but the disruptions, if there are any at all, should be brief and minimal. “All wireless phones should receive the message only once,” FEMA said in its announcement

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