A hand holding a cellphone on which is displayed a "test alert."
The Federal Emergency Management Agency will conduct a test of its national alert system on Wed., Oct. 4, 2023. Credit: Darwin BondGraham

Cellphones in Oakland and Berkeley, like millions of phones across the country, will screech and vibrate in unison at 11:20 a.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 4, in a nationwide test of the federal disaster alert system.

Radios and TVs will play similar messages at the same time.

The phone message will be sent out in English and Spanish and will read, “THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed.” Any phone within range of a cell tower should receive it, and there is no need to sign up.

The test message comes during a disaster-prone time of year for the Bay Area. Recovering from several recent days of unhealthy air quality from wildfires in Northern California and Oregon, and heading into a mini heat wave forecasted this week, the region is already on guard. (Read The Oaklandside’s wildfire guide to prepare.)

Alameda County also administers a local emergency alert system, AC Alerts. Register online.This is the second time the federal government is testing its Wireless Emergency Alerts on cellphones. Learn more about the national test taking place Wednesday.

Natalie Orenstein covers housing and homelessness for The Oaklandside. She was previously on staff at Berkeleyside, where her extensive reporting on the legacy of school desegregation received recognition from the Society of Professional Journalists NorCal and the Education Writers Association. Natalie’s reporting has also appeared in The J Weekly, The San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere, and she’s written about public policy for a number of research institutes and think tanks. Natalie lives in Oakland, grew up in Berkeley, and has only left her beloved East Bay once, to attend Pomona College.