A Wireless Emergency Alert message is seen during the tsunami false alarm in January. A similar message will appear on cellphones at 10:18 a.m. Sept. 20. (Courtesy Photo | Alaska Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management)

A Wireless Emergency Alert message is seen during the tsunami false alarm in January. A similar message will appear on cellphones at 10:18 a.m. Sept. 20. (Courtesy Photo | Alaska Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management)

Feds will test nationwide cellphone alert system

Sept. 20 event will be the first national test of emergency program

Cellphones across Alaska will sound a strident alarm on Sept. 20 as the federal government conducts the first nationwide test of the Wireless Emergency Alert system.

That system sends notices to all connected cellphones in the event of a disaster or kidnapped child. Until now, the only tests of the program have come in actual emergencies, such as the January earthquake in the Gulf of Alaska, or two Amber Alerts that have taken place in Alaska.

An investigation by the Empire earlier this year found critical gaps in the state’s emergency alert program, and the upcoming test will allow the state to determine whether it has improved upon prior performance.

Alaska’s test will take place at 10:18 a.m. on Sept. 20. It will happen concurrently with a nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System, which sends messages over TV and radio. That system is tested monthly on a statewide basis, but the national network is not tested as regularly. This will be only the fourth nationwide test.


• Contact reporter James Brooks at jbrooks@juneauempire.com or 523-2258.


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