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Expect Test of Emergency Alert System on all Devices, Systems

On Thursday, September 20, officials say they will be testing a new nation-wide emergency alert system with messages on all phones, plus radio and television stations.

Posted: Sep. 17, 2018 5:05 PM

SALEM, Ore. —

UPDATE: A planned nationwide alert to be broadcast across phones, TV, radio and other platforms has been postponed due to Hurricane Florence. Instead of September 20, the emergency alert will go out on October 3, according to a statement from FEMA:

"The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), in coordination with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), will now conduct the planned nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System (EAS) and Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) on October 3, 2018. A backup date is always planned in case of widespread severe weather or other significant events on the primary test date. FEMA and the nation’s emergency management community are currently actively involved in various response efforts to severe weather, including Hurricane Florence."

(Updated 9/17/18 at 5 p.m.)

INITIAL REPORT: Don't be alarmed if you receive an unexpected alert message on the morning of September 20—in the immortal words of the old television Emergency Broadcast System "this is a test...this is only a test."

According to the Oregon Office of Emergency Management (OEM), this is the first-ever nationwide test of the "Integrated Public Alert and Warning System" (IPAWS), a combination of warning systems that can broadcast alerts simultaneously on wireless devices (such as your phone), radio, TV and cable stations.

The test is set to occur at 11:18 a.m. on Thursday, September 20 across wireless networks, and 11:20 a.m. on broadcast networks.

No action is required by the public once the alert is issued, according to OEM.

IPAWS is a national system for local alerting that provides authenticated emergency alerts and information from emergency officials to the public through radio, TV, cell phones and Internet applications. Although this is the fourth nationwide test for traditional broadcast platforms, it is the first national wireless test.

“This is the first time a wireless alert has been tested in Oregon, and we don't want anyone to be caught off guard,” said Oregon Office of Emergency Management Director Andrew Phelps. “No matter where someone is—at work, in their car, at school, at the doctor’s office, anywhere—they should hear and see the alert on their phone,” said OEM Director Andrew Phelps.

OEM says that the nationwide test is meant to ensure that public safety officials will have the methods and systems to issue urgent alerts in times of emergency or disaster. Though alerts are expected to be rare, they could happen locally, statewide or nationally.

"In addition, the test is a way to assess the operational readiness of the infrastructure for distribution of a national message, and determine whether technological improvements are needed," said an OEM statement. A nationwide message to wireless devices would only be used in the most extreme emergency situation, they continued.

“This is a very important test that will help improve our ability to get critical information to the public, both over traditional broadcast venues such as radio and TV, as well as over mobile phones. We encourage our partners, including the media, to help share this important information,” said Phelps.

The test is being conducted by FEMA in coordination with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). If you'd like more information about the test, you can visit FEMA's website here.

"If circumstances, such as a major weather event, cause the IPAWS National Test to be postponed, the back-up date is Wednesday, October 3, 2018."

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