You’re probably familiar with Amber Alerts about missing children on your phone, but have you ever heard of WEA alerts?
Read this primer so you know what’s coming to your handset for the first time ever on Wednesday, October 3!
Here’s what you need to know about WEA alerts
Something unprecedented is about to happen on your phone soon. Here’s what you need to know…
What does WEA stand for?
WEA stands for Wireless Emergency Alert and it’s part of our nation’s broader Integrated Public Alert & Warning System (IPAWS), which also includes the familiar Emergency Alert System (EAS).
The EAS is what you see and experience when your TV or radio broadcast is interrupted for about a minute with a monthly test.
What distinguishes a WEA alert from the EAS alert?
As the name suggests, a WEA alert is a text message-like alert that’s sent to your phone. Therefore, it’s different than the EAS on radio or TV.
Not every wireless carrier participates with the WEA system, though most of the major ones do.
Check with your wireless carrier to determine if it participates with WEA alerts. And while you’re asking them that, it’s also a good idea to determine if your cell phone is WEA-capable to receive the text-like alert.
What it exactly is going on October 3?
The government is doing the inaugural national test of the WEA alert system on Wednesday, October 3.
The goal here is to test the ability of the President to address the nation during a national emergency by reaching out to us where most of our eyeballs are — right on our phone screens.
In case you’re wondering, you can not opt-out of receiving this first-ever Presidential WEA.
How will I recognize the first-ever Presidential WEA?
According to FEMA, you should look for the header “Presidential Alert” accompanied by a message on your phone that reads, “THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed.”
Why exactly is this being done?
Per the FEMA website, “[This] test will assess the operational readiness of the infrastructure for distribution of a national message and determine whether improvements are needed.”
What time will the WEA alert go out?
The message will go out to your phone at 2:18 p.m. ET, provided your wireless carrier is part of the WEA system.
Your handset will need to be turned on and you’ll need to be within range of a cell tower to receive it.
How long will the test last?
The WEA test will last for approximately 30 minutes, though you should only receive a single message during that time. As mentioned earlier, no action is necessary on your part when you get the message.
In addition, a test of the EAS on your radio and TV will occur about two minutes after the WEA alert goes out, at approximately 2:20 pm ET.