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National Test of the Emergency Alert System (EAS) and Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) set for Sept. 20

September is National Preparedness Month — an opportunity for all Otter Tail County residents to take steps to be ready to respond to an unforeseen household emergency or a community disaster. One of the most important steps to being prepared is to know how you will communicate with family and friends — whether in person or by cell phone, landline, text message or social media — and having their contact information readily available.

Similarly, safety officials need multiple ways to communicate with the public. Which is why the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) are teaming up to conduct a nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System (EAS) on Thursday, Sept. 20, beginning at 1:18 p.m. local time.

Unique to this nationwide test is the addition of Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) — used to warn the public about dangerous weather, missing children, and other critical situations through alerts on cell phones. During the test, cell phones that are switched on and within range of an active cell tower should receive the test message — which will use the same special tone and vibration as with all WEA message (i.e. tornado warning, AMBER Alert). The WEA test message will also have a header that reads "Presidential Alert" and text that says: "THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed."

"It is important that people know this test is not being done by Otter Tail County, and is not a CodeRED test," says Patrick Waletzko, Otter Tail County Emergency Management Director. "We can originate local EAS and WEAs messages for countywide emergencies, but those are infrequent — we are far more likely to send CodeRED alerts for local incidents."

Whether they receive the test messages or not, Otter Tail County residents are asked to only call 9-1-1 or other local public safety if they have a real emergency to report.

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