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FEMA to test emergency alert systems

Two nationwide emergency alert systems are being tested Wednesday, Oct. 3.

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the test, conducted in coordination with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), will be of the Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) and Emergency Alerts System (EAS). This is the fourth EAS nationwide test and the first national WEA test.

The WEA portion of the test begins at 2:18 p.m., and the EAS portion follows at 2:20 p.m. Cell towers will broadcast the WEA test for about 30 minutes. During this time, WEA compatible cell phones that are switched on, within range of an active cell tower, and whose wireless provider participates in WEA will likely receive the test message. Some cell phones may not receive the test message, and cell phones should only receive the message once. The WEA test message will be accompanied by an audible tone and will have a header that reads “Presidential Alert.”

The WEA system is used to warn the public about dangerous weather, missing children, and other critical situations through alerts on cell phones. The national test will use the same special tone and vibration as with all WEA messages (i.e. tornado warnings or AMBER alerts). Users cannot opt out of receiving the WEA test.

The EAS is a national public warning system that allows the president to address the nation during a national emergency. The test is available to EAS participants — such as radio and broadcasters, cable systems, satellite radio and television providers, etc. — and is will last about one minute. Participating television and radio broadcasters will sound a tone and display a message including a reference to the WEA test.

Originally planned for Sep. 20, the test was postponed due to response efforts for Hurricane Florence.

For additional information about the test see https://www.fema.gov/emergency-alert-test.

Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) is the designated alerting authority for Massachusetts and has the authority and ability to activate the EAS and WEA. In 2018, MEMA has issued WEAs to targeted areas on behalf of impacted communities during the March coastal storms, law enforcement incidents, and the recent greater Lawrence gas line incident.

WEAs for weather warnings are separately issued by the National Weather Service for dangerous weather conditions like tornado warnings and flash flood warnings. WEAs for tornado warnings for the 2016 Concord tornado and the 2018 Webster tornado are credited with helping people take shelter during the storms.

The EAS and WEA are some of the many ways to receive emergency alerts and information. To learn more about other warnings and information, including MEMA’s Massachusetts Alerts app, see: https://www.mass.gov/service-details/be-informed-and-receive-emergency-alerts

Massachusetts Alerts is a free app, available for Android and iPhones, that issues emergency notifications and information from MEMA and the National Weather Service. To learn more about Massachusetts Alerts, and for information on how to download the free app onto your smartphone, visit: http://www.mass.gov/service-details/massachusetts-alerts-smartphone-app.

Use MEMA’s real-time power outage viewer to stay informed about current power outages in your community and region, and across the state, including information from utility companies about restoration times: http://mema.mapsonline.net/public.html.

Use MEMA’s live weather radar and forecasting tools: http://www.mass.gov/map-resources

For additional information and resources, visit:

MEMA at www.mass.gov/mema

MEMA’s Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/MassachusettsEMA

MEMA Twitter: @MassEMA

FEMA at www.fema.gov

National Weather Service/Taunton at www.weather.gov/boston

National Weather Service/Albany, N.Y., at www.weather.gov/albany

National Weather Service Weather Prediction Center: http://www.wpc.ncep.noaa.gov

National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center:  http://www.spc.noaa.gov/

Mass211 at www.mass211.org

 

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