Observer staff

Editor's note: This article has been updated. The alert was postponed due to response efforts to Hurricane Florence. The new date is Oct. 3.

Don’t be alarmed when your cell phone signals an emergency is occuring on Oct. 3. The first ever nationwide test of the alert system is taking place.

The Integrated Public Alert and Warning System acts as an emergency alert. The test, which will take place at 11:20 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 3, is coordinated by FEMA and the Federal Communications Commission and will be broadcast via radio, TV, cable stations and wireless carriers, according to a press release from the Oregon Office of Emergency Management.

The release was sent out to announce the planned alert in an effort to avoid any unnecessary panic. No action is required of the public.

IPAWS is a national system for local alerting that provides authenticated emergency alerts and information from emergency officials to the public through radio, TV, cellphones and internet applications, according to the release. Although this is the fourth Emergency Alert System nationwide test, it is the first national Wireless Emergency Alert system test.

The nationwide test ensures that in times of an emergency or disaster, public safety officials have methods and systems to deliver urgent alerts and warnings to the public, according to the release. Alerts are rare, but can happen locally, statewide or nationally. The test is a way to assess the operational readiness of the infrastructure for distribution of a national message, and determine whether technological improvements are needed. A nationwide WEA message would be used only in the most extreme emergency situation.

In 2015, Union County purchased the same county-wide emergency notification system that will be used nationwide. JB Brock, the emergency services manager for the county, purchased the system to alert people of local emergencies.

There are three key options for notification, Brock said at a Union County Commissioners meeting when he first asked to purchase the system. The first is an opt-in portion that allows people to sign up for the service by submitting their email address and cellphone number. The second is reverse 911. This is specifically for a landline and mostly will be for businesses, which are more likely still utilizing landlines.

See more in Monday's edition of The Observer.

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