(RNN) – Everyone around the country will get an alert on their phone at the same time on Wednesday as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) conducts a test of the national Wireless Emergency Alert system.
The test will happen at 2:18 p.m. ET, when all smart phones will display a “Presidential Alert” with the note: “THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed.”
According to FEMA, “The test will assess the operational readiness of the infrastructure for distribution of a national message and determine whether improvements are needed.”
A second test of the national Emergency Alert System, the kind that typically appears on TV and radio, will follow at 2:20 p.m. ET.
A Presidential Alert is “meant for use in a national emergency, and the only type of WEA alert (wireless emergency alert) that can be sent nationwide by FEMA” according to the agency.
While individuals can opt out of ordinary emergency alerts (like Amber Alerts or extreme weather notifications), that’s not an option for Presidential Alerts. These types of alerts would be sent in the event of major national emergency, such as a mass terrorism event.
This will be the first national test of the Wireless Emergency Alert system, according to FEMA.
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In first test of its kind, ‘presidential alert’ to be sent to cell phones nationwide
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Cell phone users in America will soon receive a message from President Donald Trump, but it won’t be a political statement. The first nationwide test of the presidential alert is set for next Oct. 3.
The Wireless Emergency Alert test will start at 2:18 p.m. Eastern time, with messages appearing on cell phones throughout the United States. Two minutes later, there will also be a nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System with messages through radio and TV broadcasts.
The message that will show up on cell phones will have the header “Presidential Alert” followed by, “THIS IS A TEST of the Emergency Alert System. No action is needed.”
The Federal Emergency Management Agency wants to know if improvements are needed to the system designed to send out a warning across the country in case of a national emergency.
“For example, if there was terrorist activity in one place and they didn’t know if there was the possibility of other events in other places, they may send a national alert, but it’s purely under the control of the president,” said Richard Rapoza, public information officer for the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency.
Cell phone users should receive the test message as long as their phone is turned on and they’re within range of a cell tower. More than 100 wireless providers, including the largest carriers, participate in the WEA program.
“Something that just happens to Hawaii, I would not expect to see that, unless this had something to do with the country as a whole,” said Courtney Harrington, chair of the Hawaii State Emergency Communications Committee.
The WEA system is also used locally to warn people about situations such as extreme weather or missing children. Cell phone users can choose not to receive those messages, but they cannot opt out of the presidential alert.
“You’re talking (about) a very, very major event. That’s never happened in the emergency alert system, and God willing, it never will happen,” said Harrington.
The test was originally scheduled for Sept. 20, but it was delayed due to FEMA’s response efforts to Hurricane Florence. FEMA invites the public to send comments on the nationwide test to FEMA-National-Test@fema.dhs.gov.