On October 4th, turn OFF your private safety phones!

Oct 03rd, 2023

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), in coordination with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), will conduct a national test of the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) on October 4, 2023 at approximately 2:20pm ET. Back-up testing date is October 11th.

This test consists of two portions - the Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) and Emergency Alert System (EAS) capabilities. For more information about the national test, click here.

All major U.S. wireless providers participate in Wireless Emergency Alerts and will transmit the national test to their subscribers.

If your mobile phone is on and within range of an active cell tower from a participating wireless provider, you should receive the national test. Wireless providers will transmit the national test for 30 minutes, but your phone should only receive it once.

What does this mean for survivors?
Survivors who have safety phones that are unknown to their abuser may be at risk of their phone being discovered during this test. All phones that are on will receive an auditory and visual notification that may make it detectable by another person.

Survivor safety phones MUST be turned OFF- not silenced - for the entirety of the 30 minute period, in order to prevent the broadcast sound and notification.

Best Practices for Survivor Safety Phones,
from NNEDV’s Safety Net Team

When possible, we recommend that survivors have safe/hidden phones turned off when they’re not actively using them. There are a number of reasons for this, not just WEA tests.

  • It protects against someone using “wrong number” phone calls to detect the survivor.
  • It prevents battery running down while the survivor is not using it.
  • It prevents anyone “hacking” the phone while the survivor is not using it.
  • Having it off regularly removes some of the recent-activities-stored data that is in any phone or computer’s short-term memory (meaning there would be less data available to someone who did get nonconsensual access to the phone).
  • There are other types of emergency alerts that survivors’ phones may receive if they haven’t disabled them (and most people have not), such as emergency weather alerts, Amber alerts, and non-test WEA alerts (the last of which cannot be disabled). Unlike a WEA test, these alerts are not announced ahead of time, making it even more advisable for survivors to have their hidden phones powered off when not actively using them.

Please refer to the newly released resource Securing Devices & Accounts, in partnership with Norton for more tips and information. This resource and other resources can be found on NNEDV's website Techsafety.org.

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