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FEMA's next Emergency Alert System test leaves internet devices out

It wants to see how well the system works when people are offline.
Jon Fingas, @jonfingas
July 24, 2019
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Kim Kulish/Corbis via Getty Images

Federal agencies are once again poised to test emergency alerts, but this time it's all about where you won't see them. The FCC and FEMA are conducting their fifth nationwide Emergency Alert System test on August 7th at 2:20PM ET, but only on TV and radios. They want to gauge the preparedness of the alerting system when there's no internet access -- important if a crisis knocks out data but not power.

The dry run will last for a minute, with the last test ending at 2:50PM, and will start from designated radio stations that form part of the National Public Warning System. From there, TV and radio stations will carry the broadcast. It's not expected to have any more disruption than monthly EAS warnings.

The test comes roughly a year after the FCC took steps to make emergency alerts more reliable, and to some extent reflects that mindset. While phone-based alerts can be very helpful if you're away from conventional broadcasts when an emergency strikes, they're not much use if a blackout or cyberattack prevents alerts from getting through in the first place.

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