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Why Everyone Is Getting an Emergency Alert on Their Phones on Wednesday

A test of Wireless Emergency Alerts and the Emergency Alert System will be conducted at exactly 2:20 p.m. ET on Wednesday

<p>Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images</p> Emergency alert appearing on a cellphone

Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Emergency alert appearing on a cellphone

Emergency alert sounds will simultaneously impact cellphones, radios and televisions across the United States on Wednesday — but don’t worry, it’s just a test.

A test of Wireless Emergency Alerts and the Emergency Alert System will be conducted at exactly 2:20 p.m. ET on Oct. 4, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The tests are being conducted “to ensure that the systems continue to be effective means of warning the public about emergencies, particularly those on the national level,” according to an Aug. 3 press release from FEMA.

"We recognize that in disasters, seconds count,” FEMA administrator Deanne Criswell said in a video about the upcoming test. “Getting alerts out promptly to our communities saves lives.”

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All major U.S. wireless providers will transmit the test, meaning those within range of an active cell tower “should receive the national test," per the agency.

The English message sent to consumers’ phones will say: “THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed.”

Those with Spanish settings will receive a message that says: “ESTA ES UNA PRUEBA del Sistema Nacional de Alerta de Emergencia. No se necesita acción.”

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The wireless test will technically last 30 minutes, though cellphones should only receive one message during the wireless test, per FEMA.

During the Emergency Alert System portion of the test, which will only last for a minute, televisions and radios will also receive the following message: “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."

Although some newer phone models may include settings where users can opt-out of tests and alerts, FEMA has said those settings will not impact Wednesday's national test.

However, if your phone is off, not connected with a cell tower or has airplane mode activated, it will not receive the message, per the agency.

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This will be the second time a test has been conducted on cellular devices nationwide, according to FEMA. The last instance occurred in 2021. FEMA said Wednesday's test is the seventh nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System.

“We want to make sure that when it counts, we can keep you informed,” Criswell said in the video.

A backup testing date has been set for Oct. 11, the agency noted.

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