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By Barbara Perez
Editor, Sidney Sun-Telegraph 

FEMA Messages Will be Sent to All TVs, Radios and Cell Phones Oct. 4, 2023


September 21, 2023

Barbara Perez, Editor, Sidney Sun-Telegraph

You thought after graduation you’d be through taking tests. Well here comes a doozy for which you didn’t even study.

On Wednesday, October 4, a message from FEMA, in coordination with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), will go out en masse at the same moment across every time zone in the United States.

That means at 2:20 in the afternoon on the East Coast, 1:20 p.m. in Central time, 12:20 p.m. Mountain time and 11:20 a.m. on the West Coast, people will more than likely be startled by the familiar high pitch tone followed by a mechanical voice stating, “This is a test of the National Emergency Alert System”. What makes this different however, is that it will be seen and heard across all communication systems simultaneously. It’s being conducted with the participation of all radio and television broadcasters, cable systems, satellite radio and television providers as well as wireline video providers. The message will go out in both English and Spanish, but what you hear most likely will depend on the settings of your device.

Some people may remember the very first national emergency broadcasting test message. It was created in 1951 as a way for the government to use radio networks to warn the nation of an enemy attack during the Cold War.

This national test will consist of two portions, testing Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) and Emergency Alert System (EAS)capabilities.

The WEA portion of the test will be directed to all consumer cell phones. Again, the test message will display in either English or in Spanish, depending on the language settings of the wireless handset.

The EAS portion of the test will be sent to all radios and televisions.

FEMA and the FCC are coordinating with EAS participants, wireless providers, emergency managers and other stakeholders in preparation for this national test to minimize confusion and to maximize the public safety value of the test.

The purpose of the Oct. 4 test is to ensure that the systems continue to be effective means of warning the public about emergencies, particularly those on the national level.

In case the Oct. 4 test is postponed due to widespread severe weather or other significant events, the back-up testing date is Oct. 11. 

The WEA portion of the test will be initiated using FEMA’s Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS), a centralized internet-based system administered by FEMA that enables authorities to send authenticated emergency messages to the public through multiple communications networks. The WEA test will be administered via a code sent to cell phones. 

All wireless phones should receive the message only once. The following can be expected from the nationwide WEA test:

Beginning at approximately 2:20 p.m. ET, cell towers will broadcast the test for approximately 30 minutes. During this time, WEA-compatible wireless phones 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. 

For consumers, the message that appears on their phones will read: “This is a test of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed.”

Phones with the main menu set to Spanish will display: “Esta es una prueba del Sistema Nacional de Alerta de Emergencia. No se necesita acción.”

WEA alerts are created and sent by authorized federal, state, local, tribal and territorial government agencies through IPAWS to participating wireless providers, which deliver the alerts to compatible handsets in geo-targeted areas. To help ensure that these alerts are accessible to the entire public, including people with disabilities, the alerts are accompanied by a unique tone and vibration. 

The EAS portion of the test is scheduled to last approximately one minute and will be conducted with the participation of radio and television broadcasters, cable systems, satellite radio and television providers and wireline video providers.

The test message will be similar to the regular monthly EAS test messages with which the public is familiar. It will state: “This is a nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System, issued by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, covering the United States from 14:20 to 14:50 hours ET. This is only a test. No action is required by the public”.

The test is scheduled to last approximately one minute. It will only go out once, there will be no repeats.


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