Get Ready for Lots of Noise Wednesday Afternoon

FEMA, FCC are conducting emergency alert test
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 3, 2023 11:45 AM CDT
Don't Be Alarmed When Your Phone Screeches Wednesday
A test of the national wireless emergency system by FEMA is shown on a cellular phone in Detroit on Oct. 3, 2018.   (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Starting midday on Wednesday, your cellphone will likely start making a lot of noise—and it won't be alone. FEMA, in conjunction with the FCC, will be conducting a nationwide test of both its Emergency Alert System and Wireless Emergency Alerts, with an emergency alert sent to radios and TVs for the former, and to all consumer smartphones for the latter. "The purpose of the Oct. 4 test is to ensure that the systems continue to be effective means of warning the public about emergencies, particularly those on the national level," FEMA says in a release.

The alert will show up in English or Spanish on phones that are turned on and within reach of a cell tower, depending on what language each individual has their phone set up for. The test will kick off at 2:20pm ET and will be broadcast by cell towers for about 30 minutes in total, with the following message appearing on cellphones: "This is a test of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed." CNN Business notes that the alert will be accompanied by a "unique tone and vibration that is meant to make the alert accessible to the entire public, including people with disabilities."

This will be the second nationwide test sent to consumer cellphones. The announcement of this particular alert, however, has birthed a conspiracy theory that the signal sent to everyone's phones will "activate nanoparticles such as graphene oxide" in people's bodies, part of a broader conspiracy that the government is trying to control the American population. Those doomsayers, some of whom think such nanoparticles were injected into people via the COVID vaccine, are imploring people to turn their cellphones off Wednesday. The AP debunks the theory, with experts noting a) graphene oxide isn't in the COVID vaccine, and b) it's "nonsense" that it can be "activated" in this way.

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Hopefully nothing goes awry, like in 2018 in Hawaii, when a state alert was mistakenly triggered that warned local residents of an incoming ballistic missile (there was no missile). The false alarm sent residents into the state into a panic, and the state emergency management staffer who pushed the wrong button and set off the alert was fired. FEMA notes that if something prevents the test from taking place on Wednesday (ie, severe weather or "other significant events"), it will be postponed until Oct. 11. (More FEMA stories.)

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