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What kinds of devices will receive the nationwide test alert on Oct. 4?

Answer: All kinds.

alert notification on smartphone
Shutterstock/Simone Hogan
On Oct. 4, every cellphone, TV and radio is going to broadcast the same message at the same time. But don’t worry, it isn’t a sign of an impending robot takeover. It’s just a test of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System.

Scheduled for 2:20 p.m. Eastern, the alert will come from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). It should say something like this: “THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed.” This will be the seventh time that federal agencies have conducted a test of this system for TVs and radios, but it will only be the second time that cellphones have been included.

The obvious reason for the test is to make sure the system itself is functioning properly, but there’s another purpose too. The test reminds people that the system exists and why, so they’re not caught off guard when it is used in an actual emergency. “Speaking generally, alerts are only effective if people know what they are and they know what to do with them,” Jeff Schlegelmilch, the director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University, told the New York Times.

If for some reason there is an actual emergency on Oct. 4 for which the system must be used, the test will be rescheduled for Oct. 11.