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Emergency Alert System: Why will your phone alarm go off at 2:20 this Wednesday?

If you hear an alert on your cell phone this Wednesday, don’t panic. FEMA plans to carry out a series of tests of its alert systems throughout the United States.

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The US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced that on Wednesday, 4 October, it will conduct a series of tests of its Emergency Alert System and Wireless Emergency Alerts. The test will be carried out starting around 2:20 p.m. ET, with the intention of identifying any weaknesses in the system. The test will send an emergency alert to all radios, televisions, and private mobile phones in the country simultaneously.

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,” said FEMA in a joint statement with the Federal Communications Commission which is assisting in the tests.

How will the test be carried out?

Starting at 2:20 p.m., all mobile phones in the country will receive an alert and a text that reads: “THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed.” The message will appear in Spanish or English, depending on the language configuration of the device. The message will be accompanied “by a unique tone and vibration” to ensure people with disabilities are aware of what a possible alert would sound or feel like.

The test will have an estimated duration of 30 minutes, from 2:20 p.m. to 2:50 p.m. Eastern Time in the United States. During that half hour, all compatible phones within range of a cell tower will receive a text message.

In addition, all radios and televisions will also broadcast a test emergency alert in conjunction with the test carried out on mobile phones. The message that will be transmitted through these channels will be: 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.”