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Nationwide Test of EAS and Wireless Emergency Alert

September 13, 2018, 8:19 AM HST · Updated September 17, 9:49 AM
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Emergency Management Agency Siren, Maui. Photo by Wendy Osher.

UPDATE: Due to severe weather across much of the East Coast and ongoing response efforts, the national wireless emergency alert test has been POSTPONED to the backup date of Oct. 3, 2018 at 8:18 a.m. HST. 

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 Alert on September 20, 2018 (primary date) or October 3, 2018 (secondary date).

The WEA portion of the test commences at 8:18 a.m. HST and the EAS portion follows at 8:20 a.m. HST. The test will assess the operational readiness of the infrastructure for distribution of a national message and determine whether technological improvements are needed.

Cell phones that are switched on, within range of an active cell tower and whose wireless carrier participates in WEAs should be capable of receiving the national test message, and will receive the same special tone and vibration as with all WEA messages (i.e. Tornado Warning, AMBER Alert).

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This is the fourth EAS nationwide test and the first national WEA test. The WEA test message will be sent to cell phones. Previous successful EAS national tests were conducted in September 2011, 2016 and 2017 in collaboration with the FCC, broadcasters, and emergency officials.

The EAS test is scheduled to last approximately one minute and is made available to EAS participants including radio and television broadcasters, cable systems, satellite radio and television providers, and wireline video providers. The test message will be similar to regular monthly EAS test messages with which the public is familiar.

The WEA test message will read “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 cell phones. It allows customers whose wireless provider participates in WEA and who own a WEA compatible wireless phone to receive geotargeted alerts of imminent threats to safety in their area through unique tones and vibration. The national WEA test will use the same special tone and vibration.

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