Phones, Radios, and TVs to alert tomorrow: Here’s why

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Emma Marsing, [email protected]

UNITED STATES — No need to be alarmed tomorrow, October 4, around 12:20 MST, when phones, radios, and televisions begin alarming.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will be conducting its nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System (EAS) and Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) tomorrow afternoon to “ensure that the systems continue to be effective means of warning the public about emergencies, particularly those on the national level” according to a statement released by FEMA.

What to Expect

Around 12:20 MST cell towers across the country will begin to issue the release for approximately 30 minutes. With the sound of the alarm and vibration, users will receive an alert that states, “THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed.” The message is planned to only be received once by each consumer.

The EAS will sound very similar to the monthly test message within television and radio networks, but 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.” This part of the test is estimated to last one minute.

However, make note that if the cellular device is off or placed into Airplane Mode, the alert will not sound as it is released through the cellular broadcast system.

History of the National Broadcast System and Emergency Alert System

Created in 1951 under the Truman Administration, Broadcast 911 states that “Radio stations were required to broadcast only on certain frequencies during an emergency alert. This prevented an enemy from attacking by using transmissions from broadcast stations as a guide for their target.”

In 1971, after the creation of EAS and the dismissal of the Emergency Broadcast System, weekly “on-air” tests were moved to monthly tests, much like the ones we hear today.

Under federal law, FEMA is required to test any aspect of the alert system. The last time this was conducted was in 2021.