Emergency alert test going out to mobile phones nationwide

Florence Fletcher
October 3, 2018

Cellphone users can opt out of most alerts through the Integrated National Public Warning System, which the Federal Emergency Management Agency uses to transmit the messages, but presidential alerts will be mandatory.

The test will begin at 1:18 p.m. Wednesday Oct. 3 and may last up to 30 minutes.

But now there will also be an alert on your cellphone. So older phones with updated software may still get the alerts. The test will sound similar to Amber Alerts many cell phone users receive.

The countrywide test, a joint effort of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Federal Communications Commission, will use the same tone and vibration as tornado warning and AMBER Alert warnings. The presidential alert is nationwide and will only be used to warn of an impending national crisis. The test is strictly a test created to evaluate the effectiveness of distributing an emergency alert nationwide.

"Presidential Alert", the screen will say.

Rules outlined in a 2006 law states that the White House can issue a presidential alert only if the public were in peril, or during national emergencies.

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If you happen to be watching television or listening to the radio around that time, you'll also see this alert broadcast out over the Emergency Alert System (EAS).

An actual alert would be used for an impending missile attack or other national emergencies. A similar wireless emergency alert test message has been sent to all cell phones nationwide.

FEMA will administer the test, in cooperation with the FCC and the National Weather Service, and with the participation of the communications industry. "No action is needed".

Who's in charge of sending out this alert?

The Emergency Alert System and Wireless Emergency Alerts will be tested Wednesday. Others will not. No action is required. You won't get it if you aren't in range of a cell tower, for instance, or if your phone is switched off.

WEA is used to warn the public about unsafe weather, missing children, and other regionally critical situations through alerts on cellular phones. "You would not have a situation where any sitting president would wake up one morning and attempt to send a particular message".

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