On October 4th, 2023, a crucial test of the national emergency alert system will take place across the United States. This scheduled trial, formally known as the Nationwide Emergency Alert Test, is an important way to ensure that Americans can be rapidly warned if a major disaster or threat to safety occurs.
The test will be broadcast on televisions, radios, and cell phones simultaneously nationwide at 2:20 PM Eastern Time. The deafening, alarming tone of an emergency alert will sound, accompanied by a text message explaining that this is only a test. Government agencies coordinate this exercise to confirm that the system still works effectively after years of dormancy.
Although ominous, this is not a signal of an actual emergency – just an essential test. Here are all the key details about what will happen on October 4th and what you need to know.
What is the National Emergency Alert Test?
The National Emergency Alert Test is a scheduled trial of the nationwide system that allows the government to instantly send warnings in case of catastrophes, attacks, and other major emergencies. It is overseen by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
These agencies are required by law to conduct this test of the Emergency Alert System (EAS) and Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) at least once every three years. The last test was in 2020, making this exercise crucially overdue.
Regular testing ensures that the alert infrastructure remains capable of quickly informing Americans about immediate dangers through broadcast, cable, and wireless networks.
When Will the National Emergency Alert Test Occur on October 4th?
The test is coordinated to begin at exactly 2:20 PM Eastern Time on October 4th, 2023. This time is chosen to minimize disruption, as most people are active and able to receive the alerts during the early afternoon.
The colorful term for this universal start time is “EAS National Periodic Test Day.” The test will last approximately one minute and will be delivered simultaneously across every time zone.
The alert should only be received once – there will not be any repeats. If there is an actual emergency that day, the test could be postponed to the backup date of October 12th.
How Will I Experience the Alert?
The emergency tone will sound on televisions, radios, and cellular devices, provided they are turned on. This alarming buzz is like the tone used for weather warnings and AMBER Alerts.
On televisions and radios, an announcement will state:
“This is a nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System, issued by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, covering the United States from 14:20 to 14:50 hours ET. This is only a test. No action is required by the public.”
Cell phones will receive the tone and vibrate, accompanied by a text message:
“THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed.”
Phones set to Spanish will see:
“ESTA ES UNA PRUEBA del Sistema Nacional de Alerta de Emergencia. No se necesita acción.”
The message volume will be similar to alerts you may have received from the National Weather Service or for missing children (AMBER Alerts).
Your phone does not need to have the sound and vibration features enabled to receive the test message. However, your phone does need to be turned on.
Why is This National Emergency Alert Test So Important?
The nationwide emergency alert test provides crucial reassurance that the system still works as intended despite lacking use. Since the test causes temporary alarm, officials are cautious about activating it outside of true emergencies.
But it is essential to confirm that the extensive alerting network covering thousands of radio and TV stations and cellular carriers remains capable of delivering prompt warnings to the entire public.
Vital knowledge of immediate threats allows people to take protective action like evacuation, sheltering, or lockdowns. Prior lack of testing contributed to stark system failures during disasters like Hurricane Katrina.
Regular testing also serves to identify any gaps in the alerting networks that need to be addressed. The results will be analyzed to guide future improvements to the speed and reach of public warnings.
How loud will the alert be on October 4th?
The alert tone volume should be similar to the level of other warning messages you’ve received, like Amber Alerts or National Weather Service announcements.
For televisions and radios, the alert will be the same volume as normal programming. On cell phones, it is designed to match the urgent volume you would set for weather alerts and AMBER alerts.
The alert noise may feel sudden and jarring since it is meant to capture attention. However, the volume is not designed to be dangerously loud or risky to hearing.
On phones, your volume limit settings will apply to the Wireless Emergency Alert tone. So if your overall ringer volume is low, the test tone will reflect that.
The alert does need to be loud enough to notify and wake sleeping people. But officials try to balance urgency with reasonable volume levels.
Let the test on October 4th show you if your device volumes are set appropriately to be alerted in a real emergency. But you shouldn’t need to worry about the noise damaging your hearing.
Will the National Emergency Alert Test Mean a Real Emergency?
Rest assured, the National Emergency Alert Test does not signal any genuine emergency. The American public will be clearly informed that it is merely a trial.
Brief confusion is expected since the tone is jarring. However, the test message explicitly states, “This is only a test.”
It is federal law that the actual emergency alert tone can only be used for real threats or authorized tests. False alarms have occurred before, but are rare since senders now receive extensive training.
This scheduled, coordinated nationwide test differs greatly from mistaken local alerts. You can be confident that no response is needed on October 4th. But the test will give you a better idea of what to expect in a real emergency.
How are These Alerts Actually Sent Out?
While it may seem like magic, extensive coordination goes on behind the scenes to send out emergency alerts nationally. The test all starts with FEMA and the FCC.
On test day, FEMA will transmit the encoded alert over protected internet pathways called IPAWS OPEN. This message will go directly to radio, TV, and wireless providers like cell phone carriers.
These companies then instantly relay the warning to their customers and subscribers. The public finally sees the alert on their devices or hears it from broadcasters.
This routing through public communications networks creates full nationwide coverage. FEMA also uses a backup pathway through PBS stations if the internet fails.
Could I Be Fined for Playing the Tone?
An urban legend suggests that you could be fined for playing the emergency alert tone outside of a test. This is only partially true.
The FCC does prohibit false activations of the EAS that could provoke public panic. However, they focus fines on broadcasters.
There is no blanket ban on individuals posting recordings of the tone. Many people will capture Wednesday’s test for social media. Just don’t try to mimic an actual alert.
Mark your calendars and prepare yourself emotionally for the nationwide test coming up on October 4th at 2:20 PM Eastern. This is a vital exercise to ensure that our alert system remains capable of keeping you promptly informed when disaster inevitably strikes. Listen for the noisy alert tone on your devices to confirm that you received the test message. Despite the brief unease it may cause, rest easy knowing that no response is required – it’s merely a test!
What is Happening on October 4th 2023 – FAQs
1. What is the exact date and time of the National Emergency Alert test?
The nationwide test will take place on October 4th, 2023 at exactly 2:20 PM Eastern Time. This lines up across time zones.
2. How long does the alert be on October 4th?
The exercise should only last for approximately one minute. The alert tone is short and the test message delivery is quick.
3. What does the alert say?
The message says clearly that it is a test. On TV/radio it says: “This is a nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System…”
On phones it reads: “THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed.”
4. Do I need to have sounds enabled to get the message?
No, although your phone does need to be turned on to receive the wireless emergency alert test message.
5. Can I get in trouble for recording the tone?
You’re allowed to record the test tone. Just don’t try to mimic an actual emergency alert.
6. What is Going to Happen on October 4th 2023?
Get ready, because the National Emergency Alert Test is coming soon! This long-overdue, nationwide trial of our public warning system will take place simultaneously across the country at 2:20 PM Eastern on October 4th.
The loud, familiar emergency alert tone will sound on televisions, radios, and cell phones for around one minute. Messages will explicitly state it is just a test. Although brief unease is expected, no action is required.
Government agencies conduct this test every few years to ensure that our alerting infrastructure remains capable of quickly informing Americans about immediate threats from disasters, hazards, and attacks. The results will guide improvements to reach more people faster during real crises.
While you may find the tone disturbing, rest easy when you hear it on October 4th, knowing our emergency systems are being sharpened to keep us all safer. This test is an alarm of preparedness, not of panic. Listen for it as the siren call of public safety.