Did friend hear it? FEMA just ran its first nationwide test of the U.S. Emergency alarm system due to the fact that the pandemic.

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The commonwealth Emergency management Agency, or FEMA, tested both the Emergency Alert device (EAS), i m sorry broadcasts one emergency tone and also message top top televisions and radios, and also the Wireless Emergency cautions (WEA), a newer system that sends out emergency notifications come smartphones. This to be the 2nd nationwide test of the WEA ~ its debut in 2018, and the first test for all U.S. Cell phones of customers who determined to opt-in to obtain test alerts.

The check began approximately 2:20 p.m. ET. If you opted-in come the test, you likely got a post on her phone the said: “THIS IS A check of the nationwide Wireless Emergency alarm System. No activity is needed.” (The FCC describes how come opt-in to test alerts.)

For the an initial time, the WEA test sent out the very same test article in Spanish to phones that have Spanish set as the default language.

This is what the test WEA emergency alarm looks like. Image Credits: WA Emergency administration (opens in a new window)

Since the last nationwide test in 2019, FEMA said it has actually improved WEA come send longer, in-depth messages to the bulk of phones that assistance it. The upgrade also allows authorities to encompass tappable links, like web addresses.

FEMA operation these tests each year or two to ensure the system is working properly. It’s no tiny task: A national emergency alert mechanism designed to transfer the same message to potentially numerous millions of world at any type of given time is fraught with technical hurdles that call for close co-operation indigenous the cabinet carriers and also broadcast networks.

The EAS system has been about since the so late 1990s, yet WEA to be developed an ext recently as more Americans depend on their phones. WEA alerts, like EAS alerts, are designed come be sent out by local and state authorities for public security alerts, absent children and also imminent threats, together as severe weather. Much more recently, FEMA rolled out “presidential alerts,” i m sorry are claimed to be sent to every call in the U.S. In the event of a national emergency. Presidential alerts, unlike various other alerts, deserve to be approve by the sit president for any kind of reason, and also Americans cannot opt out.

WEA broadcasts emergency notifications with the cell towers the an impacted area — such as an area about to be hit by a storm — quite than sending tens of countless text messages, which would certainly grind the cell networks come a halt. The cautions are developed by local, state or commonwealth authorities and also are authenticated through FEMA with the integrated Public alarm & Warning System, or IPAWS, and then pass to cell carriers to provide the emergency alert.

The emergency alarm system, though, is far from perfect. In 2018, an erroneous alert sent out to Hawaii occupants warned that an impending ballistic missile threat,” and that “this is not a drill.” minute later, the alert to be canceled. The false warning came as tensions between the U.S. And also North Korea to be at one all-time high, during which Pyongyang was consistently test-firing rockets used for that nuclear tools program.

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Security experts have likewise long warned the the EAS systems pose defense risks. Critical year, researchers uncovered dozens of internet-connected, special-purpose servers supplied by television and also radio stations come interrupt their broadcasts come relay an emergency alert, which they said could enable a hacker to rest in and compromise the servers.