In early September 2023, readers asked Snopes for confirmation of reports they had seen online claiming that a nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System (EAS) and Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) were scheduled to be conducted on Oct. 4, 2023. According to these reports, warning tones and text alerts would be sent to all TVs, radios, and wireless phones at 2:20 p.m. EDT on that date.
The reports were accurate. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) had announced plans for the test two months earlier in an Aug. 3, 2023 public notice:
Today, the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau (Bureau) of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC or Commission) provides notice to all Emergency Alert System (EAS) Participants, Participating Commercial Mobile Service (CMS) Providers, and the public that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), in coordination with the FCC, will conduct nationwide tests of the EAS and Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) on October 4, 2023. If conditions on that date require the rescheduling of the tests, they will be conducted on October 11, 2023.
The announcement was widely covered by the news media in August and September, including by such outlets as The New York Times, Fox News, and CBS News. What can recipients of the alert expect? The Times elaborated as follows:
Every television, radio and cellphone in the United States is going to broadcast a message on Oct. 4 along the lines of: "THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed."
The test alert will be sent out around 2:20 p.m. Eastern time. The test will be conducted by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, working in coordination with the Federal Communications Commission.
The test is intended to make sure that the alert system is ready to warn the public in the event of emergencies, particularly those that have a national impact, FEMA said in a statement.
This will be the seventh time a nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System has been conducted via radio and TV. It will be the second time the Wireless Emergency Alert system for cellular devices has been tested nationwide. (The first such test occurred on Oct. 3, 2018, during the Trump administration, and took the form of a national Presidential Alert.)