FEMA wants to conduct the first nationwide test of the Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) system this September. The proposed date of the live test is September 20 (with October 3 as a backup).
A 87-character test message would be originated at 2:18 p.m. and sent to participating commercial mobile carriers. The message to be displayed on handsets would read: “THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed.” That’s according to Al Kenyon, Chief of the Customer Support Branch of the FEMA Integrated Public Alert and Warning System Program Office; He spoke at the Chapter 37 meeting of the Society of Broadcast Engineers Wednesday night.
This will be the first nationwide test of WEA, and the first using the Presidential level code, according to Kenyon. “This test is necessary because it will determine if carrier WEA configuration, systems, and networks can and will process a Presidential WEA, delivering the message via all WEA enabled cell sites with minimal latency,” Kenyon wrote in a letter to the FCC seeking a waiver of its rules, to conduct the test. Commission rules allowing periodic WEA testing won’t change until May 2019.
FEMA also proposes to conduct a nationwide Emergency Alert System (EAS) test two minutes after the WEA test. This would be the fourth nationwide EAS test and the first nationwide joint WEA-EAS test. The FCC in May authorized a joint WEA-EAS test in Minnesota, Inside Towers reported. Sources tell Inside Towers, the nationwide joint test has been regulators’ goal for a while.
If the Commission okays the request, FEMA IPAWS will develop multi-media public announcements to educate the public before-hand. FEMA and Department of Homeland Security employees will be asked to respond to a questionnaire to provide a snapshot of the WEA test message delivery. FEMA will also review any test observations from states or other organizations.
By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief
July 13, 2018