The U.S. government will be conducting a nationwide emergency alert drill Wednesday at around 2:20 p.m. E.T., which will send a message to cell phones, radios, and televisions around the country.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is conducting the test to check whether the Emergency Alert System (EAS) and Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) are effective in warning people about emergencies. The EAS system will send alerts to cell phones that are turned on, while the WEA portion of the test will send alerts to radios and televisions.
FEMA is required by law to test their emergency alert systems at least once every three years. The last national test took place in 2021.
All major U.S. wireless carriers will automatically participate in the test, meaning no one has to enroll in order to receive the alert.
The Wireless Emergency Alert test, which targets cell phones, is estimated to last around 30 minutes, though people should only receive the alert once.
This afternoon, residents should expect to receive the following message on their phone: “THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed.” Phones that are programmed to Spanish will see the same message in their preferred language.
Phones that are turned off, on airplane mode, or are not connected or associated with a cell tower will not receive the message. If a phone is turned back on after the WEA test is over, they will not receive a message.
Residents should expect the cell phone alert to be “accompanied by a unique tone and vibration,” according to FEMA. This is done to ensure the alert is accessible, including to those with disabilities.
If someone is on a phone call while the test is taking place, their call will not be interrupted. If a phone has its ringer or vibration off, they may not feel or hear the WEA message.