Heads up: FEMA to test national alert system on Wednesday

National

(ABC4) – Don’t be alarmed – a nationwide test of FEMA’s emergency alert system is scheduled for Wednesday.

The IPAWS – Integrated Public Alert & Warning System – helps keep Americans aware of emergencies like severe weather, missing children, active shooters, and more.

Within IPAWS are two systems – the Emergency Alert System (EAS) and the Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA).

EAS, according to FEMA, “is a national public warning system that requires radio and TV broadcasters, cable TV, wireless cable systems, satellite and wireline operators to provide the President with capability to address the American people within 10 minutes during a national emergency.”

More simply, messages sent through EAS can interrupt radio and television broadcasts to share emergency alert information.

WEA are shortened emergency messages shared by authorities to cell towers. From there, the message travels to any WEA mobile device in the locally targeted area with the emergency information. These are alerts typically sent to your phone to alert you of extreme weather, AMBER Alerts, Presidential Alerts sent during a national emergency, natural or human-made disasters, and other emergencies.

Depending on the emergency, there may be instructions on what you should do to stay safe, according to FEMA. WEA alerts have a unique tone and vibration, and are only sent to devices that are enabled to receive them. If you are unsure if your phone can receive WEA alerts, contact your wireless provider. All major providers voluntarily participate in WEA alerts, meaning you should receive them.

Alerts look like this:

A test alert from the WEA system that is sent to mobile devices. (FEMA)

On Wednesday, August 11, FEMA will test the EAS and WEA capabilities at 12:20 p.m. MT. If there is widespread severe weather or other significant events, FEMA reports a back-up testing date is scheduled for Wednesday, August 25.

You will not need to do anything when you receive or hear these alerts – they are just a test of the systems.

For more details, visit FEMA’s website.

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