Test of National Wireless Alert System to Go Out Wednesday Afternoon

Oct 2, 2018

In recent years, you may have noticed that mobile phones are increasingly giving alerts about missing children or severe weather.

Where will you be at 2:18 in the afternoon on Wednesday October 3rd? If you’ll be in a meeting with a bunch of other people who also have wireless devices, they’ll all be blowing up at the same time.

That’s because of the first-ever nationwide test of a wireless alert system former President Barack Obama signed into law back in 2016.

Mike Sharon at the Federal Emergency Management Agency says the potential uses for this range from natural disasters to man-made emergencies.

“We live in tough times now, and we’ve seen a resurgence of what we call nation-state threats, attacks on this country. And those kinds of attacks are the kinds of things that we’d want to get the word out to the nation as a whole rather than targeting it to a specific area.”

Every major wireless carrier is participating in Wednesday's presidential alert, which will happen at 2:18 p.m.
Credit FEMA

But targeting specific areas is also part of the plan, says Jeff Caldwell at the Virginia Department of Emergency Management.

“Virginia is currently working with the federal government and with localities across the state to develop protocols on when the state would use this technology to get information out to its citizens. And we hope to have all that ironed out by the early part of 2019.”

The only way you won’t receive the presidential level alert is if you’re on the phone or in an active data session. The alert will not kick you off your call, and it won’t interrupt your data session. But don’t try to disable the emergency alert in your settings. FEMA says there is no opt out for this alert.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.