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Here’s why you might get a test emergency alert on your cellphone today


If you get an emergency alert on your phone Wednesday afternoon, don’t be alarmed.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Federal Communications Commission will be issuing nationwide test alerts Wednesday for Wireless Emergency Alerts and Emergency Alert Systems, officials said.

Wireless Emergency Alerts are sent to people’s cellphones across the country during certain “critical situations,” including dangerous weather events and times when there are missing children.

Wednesday’s WEA test, which will be sent around 2:18 p.m. EDT, will have the same tone and vibration pattern as the typical tornado warning and AMBER alert WEA messages, according to a statement from the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency.


Cellphones must be turned on and within range of an active cell tower to receive the test message, and some phones may not receive the message at all. The message will have an audible tone, and the text will read, “THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed,” officials said.

The Emergency Alert System is a national warning system that allows the president to communicate messages to the public during national emergencies. Wednesday’s one-minute test message will be received around 2:20 p.m. only by EAS participants, which include radio and television broadcasters, cable systems, satellite radio and television providers, and wireline video providers, officials said.

“Participating television and radio broadcasters will sound an audible tone and will display a message that is similar to regular monthly EAS test messages with which the public is familiar,” according to the statement.

The test messages were supposed to be sent out Sept. 20, but the transmission was postponed until Wednesday amid the emergency response during and after the landfall of Hurricane Florence on the East Coast.

Andres Picon can be reached at andres.picon@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @andpicon.