FEMA, in cooperation with the FCC, plans to conduct a nationwide test of the
Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) system and the broadcast Emergency Alert System (EAS) today at approximately 2:20 ET. FEMA originates the test message and will make it clear to the public that the alert is just a test, and not a real emergency. The national test will consist of two portions, testing WEA and EAS capabilities.
FEMA has contacted nine participating cell phone carriers about the test. A senior FEMA official told Inside Towers yesterday this is the third nationwide test that includes WEA out of seven so far.
The EAS tests will go to over-the-air radio and TV stations, satellite radio, cable systems and wireline video providers for them to distribute to their listeners and viewers. The EAS message will be disseminated as a Common Alerting Protocol message via the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System-Open Platform for Emergency Networks.
WEA-compatible cell phones are expected to receive the test if they are turned on and near a cell tower. Though the alert will be “active” within the cell network for about 30 minutes, each cell phone will only receive the alert once, the official explained to reporters yesterday. The text message will be accompanied by a unique tone and vibration.
A senior FCC official said the agency has worked with states and localities to test WEAs for accuracy and speed benchmarks. Later this month, the FCC plans to vote on new WEA rules to include new languages, such as American Sign Language, and maps in the alerts.
AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon are part of the cell phone service providers that take part in the WEA. Since their networks serve as the backbone of MVNOs, subscribers of third-party wireless phone services like Xfinity Mobile, TracFone, Straight Talk Wireless, Visible, Cricket and Metro by T-Mobile should also receive the alerts, notes TheDesk.Net.
Cell carriers, broadcasters, and cable systems will send information to the FCC in the weeks following the test discussing whether they received the alert from FEMA and whether they could pass it on, including exact times for both. “We can take a look and identify any weaknesses and opportunities for improvement,” said a senior FEMA official. FEMA and the FCC are also looking for suggestions for alert improvement from providers. The public can email FEMA about their experience at: [email protected].
FEMA and the FCC say the national IPAWS test could be delayed if there is a significant emergency — such as a widespread severe weather breakout — somewhere in the country, one that would normally require a regional WEA and EAS activation. If that happens, the national IPAWS test will be delayed to Wednesday, October 11.
The Associated Press debunked rumors about the tests sending a signal to cell phones that would activate nanoparticles such as graphene oxide that have been introduced into people’s bodies. A FEMA spokesperson told AP there are no known adverse health effects from the signal. The claims revive long-debunked conspiracy theories about the contents of the COVID-19 vaccine.
By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief