What just happened? That strange notification you just received on your smartphone isn't reason for concern, it's simply a scheduled test of the wireless emergency alerts system. It was supposed to happen last month but response efforts to Hurricane Florence pushed it back to today.
A nationwide test of the Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) and Emergency Alert System (EAS) will be conducted later today. There’s no reason for alarm but knowing about it beforehand will likely save you a few minutes researching the unexpected notification on your phone.
The test will be conducted by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in coordination with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The WEA portion of the test will begin at 2:18 p.m. EDT and run for approximately 30 minutes. Cell phones that are on, within range of an active tower and whose provider participates in the WEA program will likely receive a test message that reads:
“THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed.”
The header for the notification will read “Presidential Alert.”
FEMA notes that not all cell phones will receive the message and that phones that do get it should only receive one copy of the alert. Users can not opt out of receiving the test message.
This will be the first national test of the WEA system which is intended to be used by the president to warn civilians of natural disasters, acts of terrorism and other disasters or threats to public safety. The test was originally scheduled for September 20 but was postponed due to the ongoing response efforts to Hurricane Florence.