Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Emergency Alert System Test

Get ready for an alert from the government on your phone on Thursday.

The New York City Office of Emergency Management and the federal government are sending out a test over the Wireless Emergency Alert System.

It will be sent to mobile phones ofto AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon customers in New York City sometime between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency says the messages will look similar to a text message and may be accompanied by audible alerts regardless of the user's ring tone or volume settings.

A notification will be displayed on the screen with text that reads: "Severe Alert" or "Extreme Alert." Users will see the following test alert when they open the WEA message: "This is a test from NYC Office of Emergency Mgmt. Test Message 1. This is only a test." Some WEA‑capable mobile devices may receive more than one message, according to NYC officials.

The test is part of the new system that allows the government to send messages directly to mobile phones. They do note that some phones are not able to receive the message.

Phones can receive up to three classes of text-based alerts, such as Presidential, Imminent Threat (e.g., tornado), and Amber Alerts under rules adopted by the Federal Communications Commission.

Other tests of the mobile phone test system have had problems.

On Monday, Verizon sent a test emergency alert to mobile phone customers in three New Jersey counties but didn't label it a test.

The alert was sent around noon Monday said there was a "Civil Alert' and told people to "take shelter before 1:24 p.m." Verizon says the message was sent to customers in Middlesex, Monmouth and Ocean counties

9-1-1 call centers were flooded with calls from people confused by the alarming message.

An Emergency Alert System is also being put in place for TV stations. A test in November had problems. Some stations failed to receive the test message and some stations had problems with audio quality.

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