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This Is Only A Test: Hamilton County To Send Wireless Emergency Alert

Don't worry if you receive an emergency text message Wednesday morning because - as we like to say on the radio - "This is only a test."

Hamilton County Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency is testing its Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA; pronounced WE-uh) system on Sept. 4 (backup test date Sept. 10).

The text-like message will look and sound similar to a severe weather or Amber alert, with a special tone and vibration pattern. The text will let you know it is a test. You won't be able to reply and the message will disappear once you acknowledge it.

"Anyone that travels into Hamilton County is going to get [an] alert on their phone from 9 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.," says Community Outreach Specialist Emily Johnson.

That means if your mobile phone connects to a cell tower in Hamilton County at any point during the 30-minute test, you should get the message, regardless of where you live or if you have a non-local phone number.

"If you are physically within Hamilton County, you will likely get this message. Also, say you live in Butler County very near the Hamilton County border, there is a possibility that you will get this message as well because your cell phone my be using a cell phone tower located in Hamilton County for service."

Your phone must be WEA-capable to receive the message. Most phones, including non-smartphones and prepaid phones, are WEA-capable, however you can check with your carrier if you're unsure. The more popular carriers like AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, etc. do enable the messages though some smaller carriers do not.

You can disable WEA notifications, but the agency recommends against it.

The county has only used the system once since getting it in 2012. That was for an anhydrous ammonia leak in June 2018.

Hamilton County pays $17,000 per year for the system, which gives it access to the federal Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) and enables alerts to be sent via Alert Hamilton County. Johnson says FEMA is working on a fix that will allow recipients to view alert messages multiple times rather than disappearing once they've been seen.

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