If your cell phone sends you an emergency message this week, there’s no need to panic – it’s just a test.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will conduct a nationwide test of the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) on Wednesday, Oct. 4. This is inclusive of Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA). A test alert will be sent to all wireless phones. If the test on October 4 is postponed due to widespread severe weather or other events, the backup testing date is October 11.

Starting at about 1:20 p.m. on Wednesday, October 4, cell towers will broadcast the test message for about 30 minutes. During this time, WEA-compatible wireless phones that are switched on, within range of an active cell tower and have a wireless provider participating in WEA, should receive the test message.

The test message will say, “THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed.” People whose phones are set to receive messages in Spanish will see, “ESTA ES UNA PRUEBA del Sistema Nacional de Alerta de Emergencia. No se necesita acción.”

“Our participation in this test will provide valuable information on the effectiveness and reliability of these alerts, and we are proud to partner with FEMA and the FCC to ensure our customers receive them,” said Joshua Olbricht, UScellular’s director of sales and operations for east Iowa. “We encourage you to have your phones turned on and available at the time of the test, so you know what to expect in an emergency.”

There are four categories for messages sent through WEA:

  • National Alerts are only sent during a national emergency.
  • Imminent Threat Alerts include natural or human-made disasters, extreme weather, active shooters and other threatening emergencies that are current or emerging.
  • Public Safety Alerts have information about a threat that may not be imminent or after a threat has occurred.
  • AMBER Alerts are issued in child-abduction cases. An AMBER Alert instantly enables the community to assist in searching for and safely recovering the child.

This will be the third national test and the second test for all wireless phones. The test was last conducted in 2018. Click here for more information.