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‘This is only a test’: Nationwide emergency alert system tested today

The national emergency test message, as received on a phone in Cambridge.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

The government tested its emergency alert system Wednesday, sending messages to all cell phones, as well as televisions and radios.

The nationwide tests, which were conducted by the Federal Emergency Management Agency in coordination with the Federal Communications Commission, began at approximately 2:20 p.m.

FEMA officials said that cell towers would broadcast the test for 30 minutes. During that time, wireless phones that are turned on and within range of an active cell tower should have received the test message, which said ”THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed.”

The test messages could be displayed in either English or in Spanish, depending on the device’s language settings.


“To help ensure that these alerts are accessible to the entire public, including people with disabilities, the alerts are accompanied by a unique tone and vibration,” FEMA officials said.

Test messages were scheduled to be broadcast on televisions and radios for approximately one minute. The message, a familiar one to many Americans, stated: “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.”

Emily Sweeney can be reached at Follow her @emilysweeney and on Instagram @emilysweeney22.