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Media Advisory

Metropolitan-Area Test of National Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) System

For Immediate Release: Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Thursday, April 5; 10 – 11 a.m.

On Thursday, April 5 between 10 and 11 a.m., 20 Washington metropolitan-area jurisdictions, which include all of Montgomery County, will simultaneously issue a test message to the public through the national Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) system. This will be the first live regional test using WEA’s geo-target capabilities and is expected to reach 5.2 million people.

The WEA system should not be confused with the local “Alert Montgomery” or other emergency alert programs in jurisdictions within Montgomery County, or used in other metro-area jurisdictions. The local programs are separate from this national system. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) launched WEA nationally in 2012. It has been used more than 33,000 times across the country to warn the public about dangerous weather, missing children, and other critical situations – all through alerts on WEA-enabled cell phones and other enabled wireless devices. Most types of phones are WEA-enabled, an older “Flip Phone” might not be. The public does not sign up or register for WEA, and there is no fee for the service.

  • On April 5, individuals in the participating jurisdictions will receive a message customized to their area. Within Montgomery County the message will be: “A test of the Montgomery County Wireless Emergency Alerts System. No action required.” The alert will trigger a loud (somewhat annoying) noise and will cause the receiving device to vibrate. Both the loud audio signal and vibration will be repeated twice, while displaying the text-like message on cell phones and mobile devices.

Again, individuals do not sign up to receive a WEA message, they come automatically. Therefore, the test alert may come as a surprise to people who have not previously received a WEA message.

If a real-world event impacts the planned WEA test on Thursday, April 5, the back-up test date is Monday, April 9, between 10 and 11 a.m. 

The WEA system allows government and public safety officials to target emergency public safety information and imminent threats to safety to a specific geographic area. It uses a loud warning sound and text-like messages on an individual’s WEA-enabled cell phone or other enabled mobile device. The WEA system allows the messaging to be more targeted and efficient, which is critical during an emergency. 

Periodic testing of public alerts and warning systems helps local governments assess the system and identify any needed improvements. The test ensures that Public safety officials have reliable methods and systems that will deliver urgent alerts and warnings to the public during an emergency or disaster. 

Jurisdictions participating in the exercise will draw a geo-targeted map in their WEA system. Cell phones or mobile devices located outside, but near, the participating jurisdictions may receive the WEA test because this technology uses carrier towers. Individuals who are travelling through several jurisdictions during the testing period will receive alerts from each jurisdiction they enter. Individuals visiting the Washington metropolitan-area during testing will also receive the alerts.

  • The jurisdictions participating in the WEA testing include: City of Alexandria, City of Bowie, City of College Park, City of Fairfax, City of Falls Church, City of Gaithersburg, City of Greenbelt, City of Takoma Park, City of Manassas, City of Manassas Park, City of Rockville, District of Columbia, Arlington County, Charles County, Fairfax County, Frederick County (MD), Loudoun County, Montgomery County, Prince George's County and Prince William County. People in these jurisdictions during the WEA test will receive an alert on their cell phone or other mobile device(s).

Link for: Answers to Frequently Asked Question’s (FAQ’s) about the testing.

Link for: Additional information on WEA.

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Media Contact: Lucille Baur, Lucille.Baur@montgomerycountymd.gov

 


Release ID: 18-147
Media Contact: Lucille Baur 240-876-5530