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Emergency alert test goes out to mobile phones nationwide

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    A screenshot of today’s emergency alert test. The tone sounded at 8:18 a.m. Hawaii time. The subject read: “Presidential Alert” and text read: “THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed.”

WASHINGTON >> The Latest on the first nationwide emergency alert test on cell phones, that took place today (all times local):

2:45 p.m.

Electronic devices sounded off across the United States today as the Federal Emergency Management Agency conducted an emergency alert test.

The tone sounded at 8:18 a.m. Hawaii time. The subject read: “Presidential Alert” and text read: “THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed.”

It is the first test of the national wireless emergency system by FEMA. The message was broadcast on cell towers for 30 minutes. Some people got the alert multiple times. Others didn’t get it at all.

FEMA estimated about 225 million electronic devices, or about 75 percent of all mobile phones in the country, would receive the alert. It hasn’t said yet whether the test went well.

The system test is for a high-level “presidential” alert that would be used only in a nationwide emergency. The goal is to have phones get the alert at the same time.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE

Federal officials are conducting their first nationwide test of an emergency alert system that would allow the president to send text messages directly to most U.S. mobile phone users this morning.

The test, originally scheduled for Sept. 20, was postponed due to ongoing response efforts to Hurricane Florence.

The Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) portion of the test begins at 8:18 a.m. Hawaii time, and lasts about half an hour, followed by the Emergency Alert System (EAS) portion at 8:20 a.m. The Federal Emergency Management Agency is conducting the nationwide test in coordination with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

FEMA said the purpose of the test is to assess the operational readiness of the infrastructure for distribution of a national message and determine whether technological improvements are needed.

The WEA test message will be identified as a “Presidential Alert” and will read: “THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert system. No action is needed.”

The WEA system, launched in 2012, is used to warn the public about dangerous weather, missing children, and other critical situations through alerts on cell phones. It allows customers with WEA-compatible mobile phones to receive geotargeted alerts of imminent threats to safety in their area through a unique tone and vibration.

Cell phones that are switched on, within range of an active cell tower and subscribed to wireless carrier participating in WEAs should be capable of receiving the national test message. They should receive the same special tone and vibration as other WEA messages used for flash flood warnings and Amber alerts.

The EAS test is scheduled to last approximately one minute and is available to participating radio and television broadcasters, cable systems, satellite radio and television providers, and wireline video providers.

This is the first national WEA test and fourth EAS nationwide test, according to the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency. Previous EAS national tests were successfully conducted in September 2011, 2016 and 2017 in collaboration with the FCC, broadcasters, and emergency officials.

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