FCC and local agencies to test WEA alerts in September

September 12 and 13 alerts focus on local performance

Posted: August 30, 2022

A notification is seen on a smartphone in 2018 when FEMA tested the Presidential Alert functionality of the Wireless Emergency Alerts System. (Photo by Michael Candelori/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Local tests of wireless emergency alerts will take place in September.

The FCC says it is working with several dozen state and local government agencies to assess the accuracy of the tests and asks wireless service providers to provide information on their performance.

President Jessica Rosenworcel said in a statement: “Wireless emergency alerts are a life-saving tool, but emergency officials tell us they need more information about the geographic accuracy of these alerts. in order to use them with confidence.”

She said security officials want to know that alerts will reliably reach the public “in — but not beyond — targeted areas in an emergency.” The tests are intended to assess geographic accuracy, reliability, and speed.

For testing on September 12 and 13, each state and local partner agency will send a wireless emergency alert to the public in a targeted local area they select.

[View a list of test partners.]

The alert will sound and appear on compatible mobile devices using participating wireless networks in that area.

“The alert message will clearly state that it is a test only and will contain a link for the recipient to respond to a survey about their receipt of the alert,” the FCC said.

“Each agency will have a control group of volunteers in the targeted geographic area to complete the survey, and members of the public will also be able to do so.”

Authorities send WEA alerts through FEMA’s Integrated Public Alert and Warning System to wireless service providers, who transmit them to compatible mobile devices. The FCC says wireless service provider participation is “voluntary but widespread.” These providers must send alerts within the area specified by the sender with a maximum overrun of 1/10 of a mile when technically possible.

“According to industry estimates, approximately 60% of active smartphones in the United States support this ‘enhanced location targeting’ feature, with this number increasing as consumers replace their devices with newer models,” said the FCC said.

This is part of the FCC’s ongoing efforts to improve the WEA and EAS systems. In 2021, the commission worked with 11 agencies to assess the performance of WEAs in a national test.

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