Nationwide 'Presidential Alert' Texts: Not the Best Idea

Florence Fletcher
October 5, 2018

"Now you know you say presidential alert and some people are thinking, 'Aw man, I see President Trump sending out Twitter messages all day long".

A nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System (EAS) and Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) was conducted today, as "Presidential Alert" text messages appeared with warning sounds on mobile devices in Hawaiʻi at 8:18 a.m HST.

"While my iPhone 5 did trigger at 1:18, most phones in the restaurant didn't trigger until 1:21 and two did not trigger until 1:23 - a five-minute lag", he said. "No action is needed", the full text will read.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency estimated about 225 million electronic devices, or about 75 percent of all mobile phones in the country, would receive the alert. The other option is to keep your phone from connecting to a cell tower.

'This new Presidential Alert system is actually pretty useful, ' tweeted the Twitter user. The WEA will read: "Presidential Alert - THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System". It is being completed in coordination with the Federal Communications Commission.

It's not clear how successful the test was.

Alerts go out in the event of a national emergency, and unlike local weather or Amber alerts, users don't have the option to disable them.

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Congress has placed limits on when the president can trigger such a warning, saying it must relate to a natural or man-made disaster or public safety threat.

The law establishing the alert says it can not be sent out for any reason other than "a natural disaster, act of terrorism or other man-made disaster or threat to public safety", according to NowThis.

Whether anyone else at your location received the WEA test alert message. Three people sued, claiming it violates their constitutional rights. They said a person on a call lasting 30 minutes may not get the alert as with phones with an active data connection.

That questionnaire can be found online here.

It is unknown if Trump will attempt to misuse this power as a political tool to make announcements. And while Americans can choose not to receive weather and AMBER alerts, they cannot opt out of presidential ones. Weird. I wonder where that official got the idea that we were specifically anxious about a president who wakes up in the morning and fires off ill-advised messages.

The cellphone alert is also accompanied by a similar test of the Emergency Alert System, an older system that handles radio and television.

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