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The FCC approved a test of the Wireless Emergency Alerts system in Arizona’s Maricopa County, some 60 miles west of Phoenix, on November 13. The Maricopa County Department of Emergency Management (MCDEM), in coordination with the State of Arizona and electric utility Arizona Public Service, proposes to conduct the tests at about noon and 12:30 p.m. Mountain Time.

The MCDEM intends to conduct these tests concurrently with the regularly scheduled siren tests for a local nuclear power plant. 

The county told the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau it wants to determine whether residents of Maricopa County and the areas around the Palo Verde Generating Station have fast, actionable, and credible information available to them in times of major emergencies. The MCDEM plans to conduct its first and second WEA tests concurrently with the two siren tests that have been conducted annually, “to expose the public to the diverse delivery methods of messages they may receive during a time of crisis,” it told the bureau.

There are two tests because the nuclear power plant is testing the main and backup source of its regular siren alert. County officials believe the test is urgently needed because there may be areas that don’t receive adequate wireless coverage.

Additionally, county officials say the area’s seasonal and transient population is at its highest at this time of year, and this population might not know what the siren means. WEA messages could help them react to an emergency by directing them to turn on a radio or TV for further information.

The Commission’s rules allow testing of WEA functionality only in limited circumstances that currently do not include end-to-end WEA tests to the public. That’s why Arizona needed a waiver to conduct the tests. 

October 15, 2019

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