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Massive emergency alert test will sound alarms on US cellphones, TVs and radios in October

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This is a test. This is only a test. But it’s going to be one very big test.

On Wednesday, October 4 at 2:20 p.m. ET, every TV, radio, and cellphone in the United States should blare out the distinctive, jarring electronic warning tone of an emergency alert, accompanied by a notice along these lines:

“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.”

What’s going to happen?

On Wednesday, October 4, a test is planned of the entire nation’s Emergency Alert system, a tryout to ensure everything is working correctly in the event of a big, national disaster or attack.

In the wake of the horrific fires on the island of Maui on August 8, when warning sirens that might have alerted people to the danger weren’t deployed, it’s a reminder of what systems are in place should they be needed.

Why is a national test necessary?

Federal emergency management coordinators need to make sure the national alert system is still an effective way to warn Americans about emergencies, natural catastrophes, attacks, and accidents at the national level.

What will the emergency message say?

The exact wording hasn’t been released yet but it’s very likely to be something along these lines: “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.”

On cell phones, it will come as a text message:

“THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed.”

Phones on which the main menu set to Spanish will see this: “ESTA ES UNA PRUEBA del Sistema Nacional de Alerta de Emergencia. No se necesita acción.”

When will it happen?

On Wednesday, October 4, the message will go out at the same moment across every time zone in the United States.

That means 2:20 in the afternoon in the East, 1:20 p.m. Central time, 12:20 p.m. Mountain time, and 11:20 a.m. on the West Coast. People in Alaska will hear it at 10:20 a.m. and in Hawaii the alarms will go off at 8:20 a.m.

How long will the test last?

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

Where will it be heard and seen?

The message will be heard and seen pretty much everywhere. It’s being conducted with the participation of radio and television broadcasters, cable systems, satellite radio and television providers, and wireline video providers.

So all across the United States, TV shows will be interrupted, radio programming halted and phones will get a warning message. The message will go out in both English and Spanish, showing up in most places in English but in Spanish depending on the language settings of the device.


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