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City to test emergency alert system on cell phones

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alert Photo Credit: Getty Images

Emergency text alerts will interrupt some cell phones throughout New York City on Thursday, but government officials are warning that it's only a test.

Six alerts will be blasted every hour from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. from varying cell phone towers across the city, also potentially bleeding over to parts of Nassau County and New Jersey, said Chris Gilbride, spokesman for the city's Office of Emergency Management.

The texts -- meant to be used in the event of major emergencies, such as terrorist attacks or natural disasters -- will go out to AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon customers. But it's unclear how many people will actually receive one or multiple messages because it depends on whether the phone has the compatible software.

"If you do get a message, you definitely will hear a sound like the televised emergency alert noise," said Gilbride, adding that it will still be audible even if a phone is on silent or vibrate.

The message will read: "This is a test from NYC Office of Emergency Mgmt. Test Message 1. This is only a test."

New York and Washington, D.C., are the first pilot cities for the program, known as the Personal Localized Alerting Network. The messages would also include alerts from the White House.

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