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Alert: This is only a test

Got a cellphone? Expect a text a little before noon Wednesday as part of a test of the national Emergency Alert System and Wireless Emergency Alert, in coordination with the Federal Communications Commission.

There might be plenty of OMGs in response to the planned EAS/WEA alert, scheduled to go out at 11:18 p.m. PDT.

The WEA portion of the test starts at 11:18 a.m., and the EAS portion follows at 11:20 p.m. The test will assess the operational readiness of the infrastructure for distribution of a national message and determine whether improvements are needed.

The WEA test message will be sent to cellphones that are connected to wireless providers participating in WEA. This is the fourth EAS nationwide test and the first national WEA test. Previous EAS national tests were conducted in November 2011, September 2016 and September 2017 in collaboration with the FCC, broadcasters and emergency management officials in recognition of FEMA’s National Preparedness Month.

Cell towers will broadcast the WEA test for approximately 30 minutes beginning at 11:18 a.m. WEA-compatible cellphones that are switched on, within range of an active cell tower and whose wireless provider participates in WEA should be capable of receiving the test message. Some cellphones will not receive the test message, and cellphones should receive the message only once. The WEA test message will have a header that reads “Presidential Alert” and text that says: “THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed.”

The WEA system is used to warn the public about dangerous weather, missing children and other critical situations through alerts on cellphones. The national test will use the same special tone and vibration as with all WEA messages (i.e. Tornado Warning, AMBER Alert). Users cannot opt out of receiving the WEA test.

The EAS is a national public warning system and is scheduled to last approximately one minute. The test message will be similar to regular monthly EAS test messages with which the public is familiar. The EAS message will include a reference to the WEA test: “THIS IS A TEST of the National Emergency Alert System. ... If this had been an actual emergency an official message would have followed the tone alert you heard at the start of this message. ... No action is required.”

The test was originally planned for Sept. 20, but was postponed until Oct. 3, due to response efforts to Hurricane Florence.

An emergency alert test is scheduled for shortly before noon Wednesday.