Presidential Alert coming Wednesday - what you need to know
This is only a test.
That’s the first thing you should know about the test of the national emergency system that will send an alert to nearly every phone in the country on Wednesday.
Here’s what you should know about the message you’ll be seeing:
Who is sending it?
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), in coordination with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), will conduct a nationwide test of the Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) and Emergency Alert System (EAS) on Wednesday, Oct. 3. The date is the backup date after the initial test was scrubbed on Sept. 20 due to response efforts to Hurricane Florence.
The WEA test message will be sent to cell phones that are connected to wireless providers participating in WEA. This is the fourth EAS nationwide test and the first national WEA test. Previous EAS national tests were conducted in November 2011, September 2016, and September 2017 in collaboration with the FCC, broadcasters, and emergency management officials in recognition of FEMA’s National Preparedness Month.
What is it?
For the WEA alert, you’ll get a push alert (pop-up message box) on your phone, and the alert will also include a tone and vibration. The tone is one you should be familiar with. It’s the same tone used for severe weather alerts and AMBER alerts.
The text inside the push alert will have a header that reads “Presidential Alert” and says:
“THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed.”
Cell towers will broadcast the WEA test for approximately 30 minutes. During this time, WEA compatible cell phones that are switched on, within range of an active cell tower, and whose wireless provider participates in WEA should be capable of receiving the test message.
Cell phones should only receive the message once.
The EAS test message will be distributed through radio and television broadcasters, cable systems, satellite radio and television providers, and wireline video providers.
The EAS message will read: “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.”
When will it be sent?
FEMA says the WEA portion of the test will commence at 2:18 p.m. EDT, and the EAS portion follows at 2:20 p.m. EDT.
Why is it being sent?
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.
If it’s not from President Trump, who is sending it?
In the event of a national emergency, a Presidential WEA alert would be issued at the direction of the President and/or his/her designee, and activated by officials from FEMA. (In other words, President Trump will not be sending the message personally from the White House. He might tweet about it though).
What else should I know?
Sorry, but you can’t opt out of receiving this alert (nor can you silence it on your phone unless you set the device in ‘Do Not Disturb’ mode, which varies by phone model). You can, however, turn off AMBER alerts and severe weather alerts.
WEA currently only supports messages in English, officials say. They’re working to make sure the system can support delivery of messages in more languages in the future.
Finally, FEMA says the test will not be used to steal your private data. The test is strictly a test designed to evaluate the effectiveness of distributing an emergency alert nationwide.
Learn more about the test at www.fema.gov/emergency-alert-test.