Opt-in to FEMA cellphone alert test, Alabama EMA urges

Alabama News

MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) – “This is a test of the national emergency alert system.” That’s how the message will begin on television and radio stations on Aug. 11 at 1:20 p.m. CST. Many people will receive text message tests to their cellphones, too.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is partnering with the Federal Communications Commission for a nation-wide test of the Emergency Alert System on radio and television and the Wireless Emergency Alert System on cellphones.

To get those text message alerts to your cellphone, users will have to opt-in. The Alabama Emergency Management Agency is encouraging people to do exactly that.

“We want to make sure everyone gets this because of all the threats Alabama sees,” said Jordyn Elston of AEMA’s Office of External Affairs. “It’s always important to have multiple ways to receive emergency alerts. Everyone has their phones in their hands all day and beside their beds at night.”

iPhone users can opt-in by going to “Settings” then “Notifications,” where at the bottom they will find options for AMBER Alerts, Emergency Alerts, and Public Safety Alerts. Android users can find these settings in the default messenger app.

According to a FEMA video explainer, cellphones that are opted in will receive a “unique tone and vibration.” The message will come only once, and no action is needed.

“Public safety officials need to make sure when an emergency or disaster happens, they have a process and system that will send out important alerts and warnings to the public,” the video explains as a man gives the message in American Sign Language.

“Testing the public alert and warning system once in a while is a way for us to make sure the infrastructure for broadcasting a national message is ready and able to send the message successfully. And it helps us decide what improvements we need to make.”

Cellphone messages will be displayed in either Spanish or English, depending on the language setting of the device. Participants can contact their cellphone carrier to make sure they have opted in to receive the test alert.

FEMA has set Aug. 25 as the backup date for the test. Elston explained FEMA might have to reschedule if an actual emergency were to occur on Aug. 11.

This is the second time a national alert test has been sent to cell phones. The first text message test went out in 2018 as a test of the “Presidential Alert System.” The Aug. 11 test will be the first time users have the choice to opt-in or not.

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