Your iPhone will make a ‘special sound’ on Oct 4–here’s why

Heads up, your iPhone will buzz and make a distinct noise on October 4—here’s the scoop. A nationwide emergency alert test is slated for this Wednesday in the U.S., courtesy of FEMA.

At precisely 2:20 p.m. ET, FEMA plans to try out its Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) system. Your phone will display a message stating, “THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed.” Your phone will also vibrate and emit a unique sound, similar to an alarm, even if set to silent mode. If you’ve configured your device for Spanish, the alert will be in Spanish.

The test will unfold within a half-hour window. If your phone is off at the beginning but you switch it on within that time frame, you’ll still get the alert. FEMA notes that the alert will feature a one-of-a-kind sound and vibration, both occurring twice, and won’t be ongoing. If you’re with a carrier that’s not part of the WEA system, you won’t get the message.

"The national test will consist of two portions, testing WEA and EAS capabilities. Both tests are scheduled to begin at approximately 2:20 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Oct. 4.

The WEA portion of the test will be directed to all consumer cell phones. This will be the third nationwide test, but the second test to all cellular devices. The test message will display in either English or in Spanish, depending on the language settings of the wireless handset.

The EAS portion of the test will be sent to radios and televisions. This will be the seventh nationwide EAS test.

FEMA and the FCC are coordinating with EAS participants, wireless providers, emergency managers and other stakeholders in preparation for this national test to minimize confusion and to maximize the public safety value of the test.

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. In case the Oct. 4 test is postponed due to widespread severe weather or other significant events, the back-up testing date is Oct. 11. 

The WEA portion of the test will be initiated using FEMA’s Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS), a centralized internet-based system administered by FEMA that enables authorities to send authenticated emergency messages to the public through multiple communications networks. The WEA test will be administered via a code sent to cell phones. 

This year the EAS message will be disseminated as a Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) message via the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System-Open Platform for Emergency Networks (IPAWS-OPEN).

All wireless phones should receive the message only once."

The goal of this test is for FEMA to evaluate the system’s effectiveness. The WEA system is part of a larger FEMA operation known as the Integrated Public Alert & Warning System, designed to send verified emergency communications to the public. In addition, FEMA is running a test of its Emergency Alert System (EAS), which includes radio and TV but skips streaming services. The EAS test is set to last one minute.

If you prefer not to receive such government alerts, you can disable them. Just go to Settings, find the Notifications tab, and scroll down to Emergency Alerts. Here you can either turn off these alerts or set them to silent.

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