United States

Americans everywhere will receive a loud emergency test alert in October. Here's why

The Emergency Alert System (EAS) is a nationwide public alert system

NBC Universal, Inc.

On Oct. 4, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will conduct a nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System (EAS) and Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) across every device in the U.S., including TVs, radios, and cellphones.

Here’s what you should know:

When is the alert going to happen?

The nationwide alert is scheduled for approximately 2:20 p.m. ET and will last around 30 minutes. During this time, Americans will receive an emergency alert on their devices.

However, it’s important to note that this is just a test, and no action is required. FEMA is conducting the test to ensure that both the EAS and WEA are functioning properly in case of a potential national disaster or attack.

The message that cell phones will receive will be similar to this: “This is a nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System, issued by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, covering the United States from 14:20 to 14:50 hours ET. This is only a test. No action is required by the public.”

What is the Emergency Alert System?

The Emergency Alert System (EAS) is a nationwide public alert system designed to quickly alert Americans about a national emergency across various devices within 10 minutes. The alert will be a sequence of loud noises meant to catch your attention. 

State and local agencies can also use EAS to provide important weather updates, such as tornado alerts.

How was the EAS created?

The EAS was established in 1997 to enable the FEMA President to address the entire country within 10 minutes of a national emergency. 

Its origins trace back to 1951 when the Control of Electromagnetic Radiation, or CONELRAD, created an alert system for radio broadcasts to warn Americans about a potential Soviet nuclear explosion.

The development of Soviet missiles in the following decade rendered the old system ineffective, as missiles could intercept radio waves before alerts could be sent. This led to the creation of the EAS, which can transmit alerts through terrestrial broadcasters, cable providers, satellite services, and digital radio.

Why is the alert sound so unpleasant?

The distinct and attention-grabbing sound of the EAS is intentionally loud and alarming.

Al Kenyon, FEMA IPAWS’s customer support brand chief, explained that this distinctive sound educates the public to respond to alerts.

“You know when you hear that sound, something important that may affect your life or property is going to follow,” he said.

For more information, you can read FEMA’s full press release here.

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