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Here's why your phone and TV will scream at you at 2:18 PM EST today

FEMA's test broadcast will start at 2:18 PM EST and last for roughly 30 minutes, during which your phone and TV might scream at you.
By
October 3, 2018
TL;DR
  • FEMA announced a nationwide test of its two emergency messaging systems.
  • The test starts at 2:18 PM EST and will continue for about half an hour.
  • Because FEMA is a U.S. agency, the test will only take place in the U.S.

In coordination with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the U.S. Federal Emergency Management System (FEMA) will put its Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) and Emergency Alert System (EAS) functions through a nationwide test to make sure they work as advertised.

The WEA and EAS tests were supposed to go down on September 20, but were delayed due to the ongoing response efforts for Hurricane Florence.

For context, the WEA system warns the general public about dangerous weather, missing children, and other critical situations. EAS, meanwhile, is a warning system that allows the U.S. president to communicate with the general public during a national emergency.

Cell towers will broadcast the test message for around 30 minutes, starting at 2:18 PM EST. The test message will be sent to phones connected to U.S. carriers that participate in WEA. Keep in mind that some phones might not get the message, which is fine for now but might bite you in the rear end when something actually happens.

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According to FEMA, the WEA test message will have a header that reads “Presidential Alert.” The actual text will read, “THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed.”

As previously mentioned, there will also be an EAS test message around the same time as the WEA test message. Because radio and TV broadcasters, cable systems, satellite radios, and TV providers participate in EAS, you can expect a more fleshed-out version of the WEA test message during your radio listening and TV watching.

You can also expect that ear-destroying tone to go along with the WEA and EAS test messages.