FEMA to test Presidential Alert Wednesday
If you have a cellphone, be prepared for it to get a Presidential Alert this week — whether you want it or not.
Almost every active cellphone will get the message at the same time on Wednesday.
FEMA reported it “will conduct a nationwide test of the Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) and Emergency Alert System (EAS).” That test will assess the effectiveness of sending out “a national message and determine whether improvements are needed.”
Cellphone users can expect their phone to get the alert, along with “a loud tone and vibration” at 2:18 p.m. Eastern, FEMA tweeted. The message will read “THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed.”
According to FEMA, some people call the tone “quite loud,” and it and the vibration will repeat twice on your phone.
Cell towers will broadcast the Presidential Alert for 30 minutes, but each phone “should only receive the message once,” according to FEMA.
Because this is a Presidential Alert, cellphone users cannot opt out of receiving Wednesday’s test, per FEMA. People with cellphones also won’t be able to avoid receiving actual Presidential Alerts in the case of an actual major national emergency.
The Presidential Alert would be used to allow the president to warn the public or address the nation during a national emergency.
What will be sent out Wednesday afternoon is just a test.
It will be followed at 2:20 p.m. by the more familiar EAS test which are broadcast monthly on TV and radio, according to FEMA. In fact, the test on Wednesday will include the well-known script saying “If this had been an actual emergency an official message would have followed the tone alert you heard at the start of this message.”
FEMA reports that this alert is different from a text message, meaning you cannot respond and that “your phone number is not shared with anyone.”
While FEMA is responsible for sending the alerts, it reported that President Donald Trump “has sole responsibility for determining when the national-level EAS will be activated.”
The Presidential Alert was originally scheduled to be sent out Sept. 20, but was postponed because FEMA was preoccupied with “response efforts to Hurricane Florence.” FEMA warned if a “widespread severe weather or another significant event” occurs Wednesday, the scheduled test would be postponed, again.