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Prepare yourself: The government is going to send a nationwide message to your cell phone

October 3, 2018

On Wednesday nearly every cell phone in the country will receive a presidential alert as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) conducts a test of the nationwide emergency alert system.

The test will include two portions. The Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) portion will begin at 2:18 p.m. EDT, followed by the Emergency Alert System (EAS) portion at 2:20 p.m. EDT.

According to FEMA, the header of the WEA alert will state:

“Presidential Alert” and the text will read “THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed.”

Broadcaster – radio and over-the-air television stations – will then broadcast this one-minute message:

“THIS IS A TEST of the National Emergency Alert System. This system was developed by broadcast and cable operators in voluntary cooperation with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Federal Communications Commission, and local authorities to keep you informed in the event of an emergency. If this had been an actual emergency an official message would have followed the tone alert you heard at the start of this message. A similar wireless emergency alert test message has been sent to all cell phones nationwide. Some cell phones will receive the message; others will not. No action is required.”

The broadcast will be similar to emergency weather alerts and Amber alerts that the public is familiar with.

This test is to assess the infrastructure for distributing a national message and determine whether or not improvements need to be made.

In the future, the government can use this system to blast three different kinds of alerts: alerts issued by the president, alerts regarding imminent threats to safety or life and Amber Alerts.

There will also be a way for cell phone users to partially unsubscribe to the alerts if desired. However, consumers can not unsubscribe to the presidential alerts.

The test was originally planned for Sept. 20 but was rescheduled as a result of Hurricane Florence.

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