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If your phone, television or radio makes an alarming sound around 2:20 p.m. ET on Wednesday, don’t freak out. It’s only a test.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Federal Communications Commission are set to test the national public alert and warning system on Wednesday.
Nearly all smartphones connected to a cellular network will deliver a message, alongside an alert sound and vibration: “THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed.”
The FEMA tests are designed to make sure the U.S. government can get important messages to Americans in emergency situations. A law passed in 2015 says FEMA needs to conduct a nationwide test every three years.
“We want to make sure that when it counts, we can keep you informed,” FEMA administrator Deanne Criswell said in a short video.
TV and radio stations will also deliver the same message around the same time. This is the third nationwide test of the alert system, FEMA said. The last one was in August 2021. The U.S. president can also send a message using the same system, which was tested in 2018.
The alert sound can’t be turned off on smartphones if they are on. No sign-up or subscription is required to receive the alert. While iPhones and most Android smartphones offer settings to opt out of certain government alerts, such as Amber alerts, users can’t opt out of this test, FEMA said.