A nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System and Wireless Emergency Alert system is set for 8:18 a.m. Thursday in Hawaii, the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency announced.
A secondary date of Oct. 3 also was announced as a fallback in case there are problems preparing for the test, said Richard Rapoza, public information officer for the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, on Thursday.
He explained that the Wireless Emergency Alert system has never been tested before on a statewide or national level. In fact, the first time it was used at the state level was during the false missile alert in January, Rapoza said. Problems with the system were revealed in the false missile alert, he noted.
“It gave us a good test of how many people get it and who doesn’t,” he said.
Why some cellphones received alerts and others did not is “really complicated,” Rapoza explained. All major carriers in Hawaii participate in the alert, but there are assorted factors why some phones get the blaring alert and others don’t.
Factors include the model of cellphone (older phones may not be capable of receiving the alert) or whether the cellphone owner is on a call, out of range of a cell tower or in a tunnel, he explained.
“Sometimes, there is no rhyme or reason,” Rapoza said. “It seems kind of random.”
This test differs from the localized weather alerts, such as for the recent tropical storm, he explained. Those are localized alerts to a targeted area.
The false missile alert was a statewide alert, Rapoza said, and this test involves the entire nation.
The aim of the test is to assess the operational readiness of the infrastructure for distribution of a national message and to determine whether technological improvements are needed, the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency news release said Thursday.
Cellphones that are switched on, within range of an active cell tower and whose wireless carrier participates in wireless alerts should be capable of receiving the national test message and will receive the same special tone and vibration as with all emergency messages, such as for the recent tropical storm or an Amber Alert.
While the wireless alert system is being tested for the first time, next week’s test will be the fourth nationwide of the Emergency Alert System, the news release said. Other successful tests of the system nationwide were in September 2011, 2016 and 2017. The tests are conducted in collaboration with the Federal Communications Commission, broadcasters and emergency officials.
The emergency alert test is scheduled to last about 1 minute on participating radio, TV broadcasters, cable systems, satellite radio, TV providers and wireline video providers, the news release said. The test will be similar to the state monthly emergency system test.
The wireless alert message will read: “This is a test of the National Wireless Emergency Alert system. No action is needed.”
The national wireless alert will use the same special tone and vibration as the local alerts, the news release said.
* Lee Imada can be reached at email@example.com.