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PSA: Don’t Be Alarmed if CarPlay, Android Auto Hit You With an Emergency Alert Today

The government will test the system at 2:20 p.m. Eastern, and you can expect CarPlay or Android Auto to pass on the alert.
A person uses Apple CarPlay in a Volvo car.
Fabrice Coffrini/AFP via Getty Images

Later today, your cell phone, television, radio, and some other connected devices will all be used to evaluate the Emergency Alert System by testing the Wireless Emergency Alerts for the second time in history. That includes your car’s phone projection software, like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, if your vehicle is so equipped.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will broadcast a test message to all devices at around 2:20 PM EST this afternoon. So don’t be startled when any of your connected and powered-on cell phones sound a loud tone and display the alert—including devices hooked up to your car’s infotainment system.

You may have received an emergency alert on your phone before for severe weather or a missing person. These types of alerts use WEA to push to compatible phones through supporting cellular carriers. In today’s case, this service is being utilized by FEMA to ensure that supported devices will receive a notification for a national-level emergency should either the President of the United States or the Administrator of FEMA choose to utilize it.

The message will read: “This is a test of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed.”

Providers will continue to broadcast the alert to phones for 30 minutes, meaning that your phone could alert between 2:20 and 2:50 PM EST, but it will only alert once. It’s also important to remember that putting it on silent won’t help. These emergency alerts are meant to be, well, for emergencies, so they will bypass such settings.

You can, however, opt out of receiving emergency alerts on your iPhone or Android smartphones, but it’s not clear if that will suppress this particular bulletin as it does for, say local weather warnings, or if you’ll actually have to power off your phone to avoid the message.

If the alert is handled anything like an Amber, Silver, or Severe Weather alerts, that means it’ll also display on your car’s infotainment screen and sound through your car’s speakers. So be prepared for the unpleasant warning tone to blare in your car this afternoon if you happen to be commuting when the test goes live. Maybe turn down your jams ahead of time, just in case.

If something doesn’t go right, or if FEMA needs to delay the test because of some other national or widespread severe weather, the rain date for testing is exactly one week later: October 11th.

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