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Florida’s predawn phone emergency alerts scheduled to continue

Someone in Tallahassee, Florida, has some explaining to do. Countless phones woke their owners today before the sun had risen as part of a test of the state’s Emergency Alert System (EAS). The scheduled time of the test was 4:50 a.m. And at that time — a couple minutes early, actually — those countless phones awakened with that horrible sound that either means imminent doom or some sort of silver/purple/pink alert that leads folks to turn off such alerts in the first place.

Silent mode offered no solace. If you had a phone anywhere near your person, you woke up. Early.

Florida EAS test on April 20, 2023.
Phil Nickinson/Digital Trends

The message that accompanied the klaxon-like sound read: “TEST — this is a TEST of the Emergency Alert System. No action is required.”

The reaction from folks on Facebook and Twitter and the like is exactly what you’d think and isn’t worth repeating here. But here’s the thing: The predawn tests are (at least for now) still scheduled to continue, alternating between 4:50 a.m. Eastern time one month, and 1:50 p.m. the next, with tests occurring either on the 20th or 21st of the month.

A call to the Florida Association of Broadcasters (FAB), which administers the EAS for the Florida Division of Emergency Management, was met with a message of a full mailbox as of 8 a.m. April 20. We’ve emailed the FAB and will update when we hear back.

I live in Florida. We’re now four months into the year, and this is the first such test I can recall. Especially one so early in the morning.

But because this is Florida we’re talking about, the story actually gets worse. A good chunk of the Panhandle — from which I hail — is not in the Eastern time zone. We’re in Central, an hour behind the rest of the state. So our phones didn’t try to give us heart attacks at nearly 5 a.m. They did so at not-quite 4 a.m. That’s ridiculously early for most folks. And there are nearly 1 million people living in the counties in Florida’s Central time zone.

This is the sort of thing that will lead folks to turn off emergency alerts in their phone settings, and that’s not a great thing. Florida is no stranger to emergencies, whether it’s weather or a building collapse or a bridge falling down. Emergency alerts are important. But so, too, is a rational testing schedule.

We’ll update this story later if we learn anything else. But first, a nap.

We know a 4:45 AM wake up call isn't ideal 😅@FLSERT wants to apologize for the early morning text. Each month, we test #emergencyalerts on a variety of platforms. This alert was supposed to be on TV, and not disturb anyone already sleeping.

— FL Division of Emergency Management (@FLSERT) April 20, 2023

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Phil Nickinson
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