FEMA, FCC to test national presidential alert system Wednesday

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A nationwide test of two federal alert systems is planned for this week, Federal Emergency Management Agency officials announced.

The Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) and Emergency Alert System (EAS) tests are being conducted in coordination with the Federal Communications Commission and slated for 11:18 a.m. and 11:20 a.m. Wednesday.

“The test will assess the operational readiness of the infrastructure for distribution of a national message and determine whether improvements are needed,” a FEMA news release stated.

The WEA system is commonly utilized to issue warnings about dangerous weather conditions, missing children and other critical situations through alerts on cell phones, FEMA stated in a news release.

The EAS is a national warning system utilized by the president of the United States to address the nation during a national emergency via radio, television broadcasters, cable systems and satellite radio, the release stated.

Radio, TV, cable stations and wireless carriers will conduct the test with cell towers across the country broadcasting the message for 30 minutes.

Owners of cell phones powered on and connected to carriers participating in the WEA program can expect to receive the test message. Each phone will receive the message once.

“Both test messages will begin with, ‘This is a test,’ and end with, ‘no action is needed,’” a FEMA spokeswoman said in a public safety announcement video posted to the agency’s YouTube page.

Previous EAS national tests were conducted in November 2011, September 2016 and September 2017.

“Public safety officials need to make sure when an emergency or disaster happens, they have a process and system that will send out important alerts and warnings to the public,” the spokeswoman said.

The test was originally planned for Sept. 20, but was postponed to Wednesday due to response efforts related to Hurricane Florence.

“Testing the public alert and warning system once in a while is a way for us to make sure the infrastructure for broadcasting a national message is ready and able to send the message successfully and help us decide what improvements we need to make,” the spokeswoman said.

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