Did you hear Thursday’s smartphone alert test?

Maybe your smartphone squawked out a Fairfax County emergency alert test Thursday and maybe it didn’t. Or, maybe you received more than one test message.

If you were somewhere in the Washington, D.C., metro area between 10 and 11 a.m. Thursday you should have received a text message testing the Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) system. The WEA is used by government officials to alert people to serious emergencies. But Fairfax County’s Office of Emergency Management has received a lot of reports from people who didn’t receive this test.

Here’s why you might not have received the WEA test

  • Some participating cellphone carriers may offer WEA on some, but not all, of their mobile devices. Consumers should check with their wireless carriers to find out if their cellphone is WEA-capable.
  • If you were talking on your cellphone at test time.
  • If apps are running, you may not have received the audible alert.
  • Participation in WEA by wireless carriers is widespread, but voluntary. Some carriers may offer WEA over all or parts of their service areas or over all or only some of their wireless devices. Other carriers may not offer WEA at all. Even if you have a WEA-enabled device, you would not receive WEAs in a service area where the provider is not offering WEA or if your device is roaming on a provider network that does not support the WEA service. Consumers should check with their wireless carriers to determine the extent to which they are offering WEA.
  • It’s also possible that some people may have turned off the WEA notification on their cellphone.

You may have received more than one alert because…

Nearly two dozen jurisdictions in the National Capital Region participated in this test. So , if you were close to two jurisdictions at the time of the test, such as someone would be in Fairfax City or at Dulles Airport,you might have received test alerts from both of areas.

Did you get a test message?

If you received the WEA test, whether in Fairfax County or elsewhere, emergency officials would like to hear from you. You can take a short survey here.


About the Author

Ed Tobias
Ed Tobias brings more than four decades of reporting and news management experience to his work at FairfaxNews. Tobias managed news coverage for Associated Press Radio for over twenty years.  This included coverage of the 9/11 attacks, the Iraq War, Hurricane Katrina, the death of Princess Diana, the Challenger and Columbia shuttle disasters and national election primaries, conventions and campaigns.  He was part of the team that built AP’s on-line video operation. Prior to joining AP, Tobias was News Director at all-news WTOP in Washington, D.C. He has won two Ohio State Awards for his reporting and producing and he led coverage that won an Edward R. Murrow Award.