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FEMA to test nationwide emergency alert system at 2 p.m. ET

The first-ever test of a nationwide emergency alert system will be conducted at 2 p.m. ET today on all radio and TV stations — and the government wants to spread the word in advance, “so no one is caught off guard.”

The 30-second test, to be overseen by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Federal Communications Commission, will run on radio, satellite radio and TV stations in all 50 states and U.S. territories. It will include alert “beeps” and the words “This is a test.”

FAQs:  FEMA explains the test.

The test will not be broadcast over the Internet or to individual cellphones or other personal mobile devices or on weather radios.

The national emergency alert system, set up during the Cold War, is an alert and warning system that can be activated by the president to provide critical information to the country during emergencies. To date, the alert system has never been used to deliver a national or presidential alert.

Why now?

Here’s how FEMA explains it:

We need to know that the system will work as intended should public safety officials ever need to send an alert or warning to a large region of the United States. Only a complete test of the Emergency Alert System can help us identify any changes and improvements needed to modernize this system and make it fully accessible.

Although FEMA says there have been local emergency alert tests in the past, none has been broadcast to all regions of the USA at the same time.