Shared from the 10/2/2018 The Columbus Dispatch eEdition

First nationwide cellphone test Wednesday

The first nationwide cellphone test will happen at 2:18 p.m. Wednesday with TV and radio alerts to sound off 2 minutes later.

The test of the Emergency Alert System and Wireless Emergency Alerts will enable authorities to “assess the operational readiness of the infrastructure for distribution of a national message and determine whether improvements are needed,” according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s website,

“This is part of what’s called the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System,” said Tim Warstler, Stark County Emergency Management Agency director. “This is a test to make sure the system is able to work, to send a message in a time of disaster to everything within a set area.”

According to FEMA, “IPAWS enables public safety alerting authorities such as emergency managers, police and fire departments to send the same alert and warning message over multiple communication pathways at the same time to citizens in harm’s way, helping to save lives.”

Emergency officials sending out an alert about a pending disaster need issue only one alert with the IPAWS technology.

That message may go out to cellphones, weather radios and TV and radio stations — simultaneously. For Wednesday’s test, the alerts will go out separately, two minutes apart, Warstler said.

Alerts for some systems, such as weather radio alerts and Amber alerts for endangered children, typically need to be issued independently of one another. Systems are activated differently and with separate, specific criteria, Warstler said.

Most people no longer use land lines; home-based telephones have been replaced by cellphones.

A survey by the National Center for Health Statistics showed that in the first half of 2017, more than 52 percent of all households in the United States had only wireless cellphones, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Nearly three-quarters of all adults ages 25-34 were living in wireless-only households; more than two-thirds (70.7 percent) of adults renting their homes were living in wireless-only households,” the survey showed.

Landlines may still work when the power goes out, yet because most people no longer have them, “we have to be able to get messages to the cellphones,” Warstler said.

And eventually, he said, the alert messages will sound off on other smart devices such as Alexa and Google Home devices.

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