A test for the US emergency alert system will be conducted on Wednesday, but it is already being met with internet conspiracy theories.
The nationwide test is scheduled for 2.20pm ET and will play on US cellphones and TV and radio stations.
The test is organized by Federal Emergency Management Agency, in coordination with Federal Communications Commission, and the Puerto Rico Emergency Management Bureau, according to a Fema press release.
The test will assess two alert systems: the emergency alert system (EAS), which plays on TV and radio, and the wireless emergency alert (WEA).
Orlando Olivera, the coordinator of Fema’s Caribbean area office in Puerto Rico, said: “We want to ensure that the systems continue to be effective, that the public understands and uses these alerts and warnings about emergencies, particularly those on the national level, as we work to strengthen emergency readiness among our communities.”.
On Wednesday, the alert will be broadcast on cellphone towers for approximately 30 minutes. Those with wireless cellphones that are turned on, within range of a cell tower, and whose providers are compatible with WEA, should receive the test alert.
TVs and radios that are on will play the alert for approximately a minute, in coordination with broadcasters.
Fema said the alert will play at a unique tone and will be accompanied by a vibration to increase access to those with disabilities.
The EAS is a nationwide alert system that mandates that broadcasters, wireless providers and other entities provide the US president with a platform to address the public during national emergencies.
The test alert is the seventh since the creation of the EAS, according to CBS. Still, conspiracy theories have emerged online about the test.
Some have claimed the alert system will instruct cellphones to emit nanoparticles. Some users on X, formerly known as Twitter, have encouraged others online to keep their phone off during the test.
“Our sources recommend [disabling] your phone during tomorrow’s scheduled Fema test,” wrote one X user.
“Recommendations include not only disabling all alerts but also removing the sim card and shutting down your phone completely, possibly putting in a faraday bag if you have one,” the same user added, referring to the signal-blocking pouch.
Another X account claimed that the alert was because the “US is preparing for WAR with Russia and China!!”
Jeremy Edwards, the Fema press secretary, told the Guardian that such claims about the upcoming test are false.
“The sole purpose of the test is to ensure that the systems continue to be an effective means of warning the public about emergencies, particularly those on the national level,” Edwards said, adding that the communication systems were “critical tools” used to tell civilians about threats to public safety.
Elle Bornemann of the University of Delaware’s Disaster Research Center said that conspiracy theories around the upcoming test are borne of fear.
She said: “It’s just a lack of confidence in state leaders, government leaders. It’s an [unsureness]. And when you’re unsure, a lot of that turns into fear.”
Bornemann said her own grandparents had questions about the upcoming test, but added that research and awareness of the testing from a trusted source can help people feel more confident about the alert.
She said: “If it comes from a source that they trust, I feel like [people] will have a little bit more confidence in understanding what this test means, what’s going to happen, what it benefits and who it benefits.”