Fact Check: FEMA's October 4 Test Will NOT Send 'Special Sound Nationwide For 30 Minutes' On All Phones, Computers, TVs, Radios

Fact Check

  • by: Alexis Tereszcuk
Fact Check: FEMA's October 4 Test Will NOT Send 'Special Sound Nationwide For 30 Minutes' On All Phones, Computers, TVs, Radios Brief Alert

Will FEMA's October 4, 2023, wireless emergency alert test cause a 30-minute sound on all phones, computers, televisions and radios in the United States? No, that's not true: The test of the emergency alert system will run within a 30-minute window and will be a brief sound. This is clearly stated in the article that is linked to in the social media post and in the FEMA press release, which also notes the alert will occur over the course of 30 minutes -- not last for 30 minutes.

The claim appeared in a post published by country music singer John Rich on X, formerly known as Twitter, on October 2, 2023 (archived here) which opened:

Oct 4th they're gonna ring every phone, computer, tv and radio with a 'special sound' nationwide for 30 minutes. Don't know about you, but I don't like it one bit.

This is what the post looked like on Twitter at the time of writing:

Screenshot 2023-10-03 at 11.51.41 AM.png

Twitter screenshot

(Source: Twitter screenshot taken on Tue Oct 3 18:19:38 2023 UTC)

Rich, a member of the country music group Big & Rich, linked to a MacWorld article (archived here) that explicitly explains the alert will take place within a 30-minute period, not that it will last for 30 minutes:

FEMA says that the test will run within a 30-minute window, so if your phone is off at the start of the test but then turned on during the window, you will get a test message. The test message should be sent only once, accompanied by "a unique tone and vibration, both repeated twice" and not played continuously, according to FEMA. You can delete the message after it is received. If a person subscribes to a wireless provider that does not participate in WEA, they will not receive the test.

FEMA announced the test on August 3, 2023, in a message posted on their website titled "FEMA and FCC Plan Nationwide Emergency Alert Test for Oct. 4, 2023" (archived here), noting "Test Messages Will be Sent to All TVs, Radios and Cell Phones." The alternate date of October 11, 2023, will be used "in case the Oct. 4 test is postponed due to widespread severe weather or other significant events." The website stated:

The purpose of the Oct. 4 test is to ensure that the systems continue to be effective means of warning the public about emergencies, particularly those on the national level.

The release states how the broadcast of the test message will occur, which is over the course of 30 minutes, not that it will last 30 minutes:

Beginning at approximately 2:20 p.m. ET, cell towers will broadcast the test for approximately 30 minutes. During this time, WEA-compatible wireless phones that are switched on, within range of an active cell tower, and whose wireless provider participates in WEA, should be capable of receiving the test message.

The October 4, 2023, test

There are two alert systems that will be tested on October 4, 2023, or if postponed, October 11, 2023 -- the Emergency Alert System (EAS) and Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA). The EAS will be sent to radios and televisions, while the WEA will be directed to cell phones. Information about the test can be found from the National Weather Service (NWS) or the August 3, 2023, FEMA press release.

How to opt out

Included in the NWS fact sheet (archived here) is a link to a video (archived here) on the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association (CTIA) website. The video instructs that the emergency alert settings can be checked in the phone's settings, in the notification settings. A person can opt in or out of all the alerts except Presidential Alerts during a national emergency.

Lead Stories has debunked multiple false claims about the October 4, 2023, FEMA wireless emergency test, including the claim that it is mandatory on mobile devices here, and the claim that the test will cause DNA damage by activating "nanoparticles including graphene oxide" here. Other fact checks regarding FEMA can be found here.

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  Alexis Tereszcuk

Alexis Tereszcuk is a writer and fact checker at Lead Stories and an award-winning journalist who spent over a decade breaking hard news and celebrity scoop with RadarOnline and Us Weekly.

As the Entertainment Editor, she investigated Hollywood stories and conducted interviews with A-list celebrities and reality stars.  

Alexis’ crime reporting earned her spots as a contributor on the Nancy Grace show, CNN, Fox News and Entertainment Tonight, among others.

Read more about or contact Alexis Tereszcuk

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