NATIONAL ALERT TEST: Alert system meant for the President's use to be tested Wednesday

Published: Oct. 3, 2018 at 6:01 AM CDT
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Today the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will do its first test of a system that allows the President to send a message to most U.S. cellphones. A senior FEMA official estimates 225 million cellphones will receive the Presidential Alert notification Wednesday at 1:18 EDT.

The message should read: “THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed.”

Even though this is a 'Presidential Alert', President Donald Trump will not be the one to actually hit send on this notification. This national notification is sent through the Wireless Emergency Alerts System (WEAS). In the event of a real national emergency, however, the President could be the one crafting and sending out the alert.

WEAS operates from a software program specifically designed for FEMA's use. Its thanks to the FCC and its agreement with cellphone carriers that makes delivery to every cellphone in the country possible, including Cellcom customers.

"it's not like a regular text message-- this is going to be a wireless alert so you're not going to be able to find it in your text messaging app- -it's just going to pop up on your phone and then you'll be able to clear it off and that will be it" said John Schult, a Cellcom Business Sales Manager.

The alert is expected to appear and sound similar to AMBER and severe weather alerts, but unlike those Alerts there is no opting out. A number of Americans are uncomfortable with that feature. Some said it's unnecessary and an invasion of privacy. Officials responded saying the Presidential Alert is the least important to people's daily safety.

"We have been made aware that some people opt out of imminent threat and AMBER alert messages-- and those are the ones on a daily basis that really impact people's live and their local communities. "

Senior FEMA and FCC officials said there are decades of laws that govern how emergency alerts can be used. More recent legislation, places restrictions on what kind of information can be included in a Presidential Alert.

Find a fact sheet from FEMA's website here:

To see a more visual presentation from FEMA's website paste the link into your browser:

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