Most cell phones in the U.S. will receive a pair of emergency alerts, sent via text message, on Wednesday, Oct. 3. The messages are part of a test being run by FEMA and the FCC to determine how well the Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) and Emergency Alert System (EAS) work on a national level. The WEA test will be sent at 2:18pm eastern time and the EAS test will follow at 2:20pm eastern time. Each is expected to last one minute. According to FEMA, this is the first WEA test, and the fourth EAS test. The majority of cell phones that are powered on and connected to nearby cell towers will receive the messages, which will include a special tone and vibration. The WEA text, in particular, will say: “Presidential Alert: THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed.” The WEA and EAS serve slightly different purposes. The WEA is meant to warn the public about inclement weather, dangerous environmental conditions, and missing children (AMBER alerts). These are typically confined to smaller regions, such as cities or counties. The EAS is a national system that gives the government direct access to the populace so it can issue warnings for attacks, national emergencies, or deliver other critical information for the safety of the public. The EAS message will be much longer than the WEA message, though the content is mostly the same. There is no real emergency, and the public should not be concerned about the test.
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