Relax, That Terrifying ‘Extreme Alert’ Message on Your Cell Phone Is Only a Test


Today between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., the Office of Emergency Management will be sending out texts that say “Severe Alert” or “Extreme Alert.” This would be frightening, perhaps even terrifying, but, not to worry, this is only a test! In partnership with the Department of Homeland Security, the FCC, and others, the OEM is conducting this test of Wireless Emergency Alerts, a new free emergency notification system that will allow government officials to send geographically targeted alerts in case of danger to AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Sprint customers. While random text messages on our cell phone generally send us into a tizzy even if they only say “Hey,” or “What are you up to?” these practice texts are for our safety, and should be met with much joy.

Six test texts will go out to “WEA-enabled mobile devices prepositioned around New York City by OEM and FEMA.” Here’s what will happen, then:

Those wireless devices that receive the test message(s) will emit an audible notification, regardless of the user’s ring tone or volume settings. A notification will be displayed on the screen of the device with text that reads: “Severe Alert” or “Extreme Alert.” Users will see the following test alert when they open the WEA message: “This is a test from NYC Office of Emergency Mgmt. Test Message 1. This is only a test.” Some WEA‑capable mobile devices may receive more than one message.

In addition to the OEM and FEMA test phones designated to receive messages, some newer mobile devices sold to the public may be WEA-capable and may get one or more of the text messages. So, we don’t know for sure who will receive them, but if you are one of the lucky few who do, you heard it here. Relax! This is only a practice “Severe Alert,” and should be completely ignored. Whew.

Let us know if it happens to you.

If You Receive an ‘Emergency’ Text, Don’t Panic [Animal NY]