You would have heard it if you were by yourself — and definitely if on the subway or at a restaurant: Wednesday’s test of the national emergency alert system.
The U.S. wireless providers that participated in the federal alert program sent alerts to their customers around 2:18 p.m. Eastern Time. At which point, phones might have blared or vibrated with a message of warning, though “no action” was to be required by the public, according to the message.
The test was conducted by the Federal Emergency Management Agency in concert with the Federal Communication Commission as a way to ensure systems are ready to alert the public in the event of an actual national emergency. Stephen Flynn, professor of political science and founding director of the Global Resilience Institute at Northeastern, explains what the test meant and offers a brief history of the wireless emergency alert system. His comments have been edited for brevity and clarity.