FEMA, FCC Gear Up for First Nationwide WEA Test

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FCC and FEMA Integrated Public Alert and Warning System officials shared some details Friday ahead of the first nationwide test of the Wireless Alert System on October 3.

This is a Presidential Alert level message for WEA. The purpose of the test is to ensure the system is ready, should the President or someone he designates, need to warn the public about something such as a declaration of war or a terrorist attack, said officials.

Inside Towers asked how many people could potentially receive the test message. “We anticipate all towers and carrier networks will receive [and distribute] the message,” said a FEMA official. He estimated “greater than 75 percent of the population” or more than 300 million, could see the alert on their devices. Consumers can’t opt out of a Presidential level WEA alert. If their device is turned off, they’ll see the alert when they turn their phones back on.

The test is a combined WEA-EAS test, though the WEA portion will start first. The agencies are Congressionally mandated to test the alerting system at least every three years. The agencies believe WEA is now mature enough to test at this level.

When asked by Inside Towers how long the test could last, officials said local messages are usually received on mobile devices within seconds to a couple of minutes. They don’t know how long this test will take.

The test message to be sent at 2:18 p.m. Eastern will display: “This is a test of the national Wireless Alert System. No action is needed.” Agencies are reaching out to carriers and the media ahead of time to inform the public and avoid panic.

The agencies will query their own employees and carriers about how the test went, including where they were when they received the message. It’s not yet been determined if or how results would be publicly released. Comments? Email us.

September 24, 2018

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