This Wednesday, October 4, your phone will play a sound and vibrate, and there is nothing you can do about it if you live in the US. But it’s not aliens or your cell phone rising up against you. It’s just another nationwide test from the United States government.
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has confirmed that the test will take place on October 4 at 11:20 AM PT / 2:20 PM ET. Every cell phone that’s on and within range of a tower will receive a message that states, “THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed.” Phones set to Spanish will receive the message in Spanish, and there will be a “unique tone” and vibration effect, too.
IMPORTANT: On Wednesday, Oct. 4th at 2:20 p.m. ET, there will be a nationwide emergency alert test on cell phones, wireless devices, radios, and TVs.
This is a standard test that occurs at least once every three years. No action is needed.
Info & FAQs: https://t.co/KKyrIr4e03 pic.twitter.com/xDW92DwcAy
— FEMA (@fema) October 2, 2023
FEMA said the purpose of this test is to “ensure that the systems continue to be effective means of warning the public about emergencies, particularly those on the national level.” If there is bad weather or another “significant” event, the test will be delayed to October 11.
All major US wireless providers worked with the government for this test, and unless you’re in some very remote part of the country far away from a cell tower, you will get the message. In an FAQ, FEMA said the test will be conducted for 30 minutes, but your phone should only receive the message once.
The FAQ also states that this national test is not a means to access data on your phone or track you, as FEMA said the test cannot monitor, locate, lock, or gather data from your phone. The test signal will not interrupt any phone call you might be on at the time, but that doesn’t mean it won’t distract or disrupt your day in some way.
Some newer phones allow users to opt out of tests and alerts like this. But none of those settings will work for this test. If you really don’t want to get the alert, you can go far away from an active cell tower or put your phone on airplane mode.
FEMA will also dispatch messages to radios and televisions. The government group conducts these types of tests every three years, following legislation passed in 2015.
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