If you get a strange notification on your phone or television Wednesday afternoon, you do not need to be alarmed.
It’s just a test, but don’t try to opt out of receiving it — there’s no way to stop the alert from popping up on your phone or television screen.
FEMA and the FCC will conduct a nationwide test of its emergency alert system at 2:18 p.m. Oct. 3, according to a news release from James City County.
The test comes in two different formats: the Wireless Emergency Alert and the Emergency Alert System. It’s intended to test the operational readiness of the infrastructure that distributes the national message, and determine whether improvements need to be made.
The WEA test, which is the first test of its kind, has a header that reads “Presidential Alert” and text that says: “THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed.”
Cellphone users cannot opt out of the test, which uses the same special tone and vibration as AMBER alerts and tornado warnings. Cellular towers will broadcast the alert for about 30 minutes.
The WEA alert will reach any cellphone that is connected to a wireless provider participating in the test, switched on and within active range of a cell tower.
Real emergencies that can prompt a WEA message include AMBER alerts, extreme weather, other localized threats and Presidential Alerts during a national emergency.
The EAS alert is broadcast radio and television broadcasters, cable systems, satellite radio and television providers, and wireline video providers. It is similar to monthly tests of the system the public is accustomed to hearing.
The alert will read the following information: “THIS IS A TEST of the National Emergency Alert System. This system was developed by broadcast and cable operators in voluntary cooperation with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Federal Communications Commission, and local authorities to keep you informed in the event of an emergency. If this had been an actual emergency an official message would have followed the tone alert you heard at the start of this message. A similar wireless emergency alert test message has been sent to all cellphones nationwide. Some cellphones will receive the message; others will not. No action is required.”
The EAS alert has been tested three times in previous years, in November 2011, September 2016 and September 2017.
The EAS and WEA test was originally scheduled for Sept. 20, but was rescheduled because of ongoing recovery efforts after Hurricane Florence.