FEMA to Test ‘Presidential Alert System’ Wednesday

Gerald Bowen
October 3, 2018

FEMA will also run a test of its Emergency Alert System for radio and television broadcasters the same day, beginning two minutes after the WEA test. In 2015 Congress passed a bill which states that the system may only be used to alert the public to a "natural disaster, act of terrorism, or other man-made disaster or threat to public safety".

The official said the system includes safeguards. You can, however, turn off AMBER alerts and severe weather alerts.

Before it shows up on cellphones, the alert must be routed to wireless carriers such as AT&T and Verizon through an online system called the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System, or IPAWS.

The EAS and WEA test was originally scheduled for September 20, but was rescheduled because of ongoing recovery efforts after Hurricane Florence.

The test alert will be sent by a device similar to a laptop from a FEMA laboratory.

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Despite its name, Wednesday's presidential alert will not be issued by President Trump directly.

The alert will appear as long as the device is on, and may also show up on smartwatches, according to officials. "You would not have a situation where any sitting president would wake up one morning and attempt to send a particular message".

If you're picturing a red button inside a glass box or a fire-alarm-style handle on the wall - this isn't that. The official said the uses are limited, such as to a "coordinated attack on our major cities across the country" or "some other type of public peril that is ongoing in the country at the time".

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That 3 out of 4 phones will likely get the warning is a reflection of our always-on, technologically connected times.

IPAWS-NOAA Gateway: This is used to deliver alerts to weather radios.

Because the message is meant to include "critical lifesaving information", it's created to reach as many cellphones as possible, even those that aren't activated or don't have SIM cards.

FEMA estimates some 225 million devices, or about 75 percent of cellphone users in the US, will receive the alert.

Cell phones should only receive the message once.

The "Presidential Alert" will use the same special tone and vibration as Tornado Warnings and AMBER Alerts. It will be accompanied by a national alert tone.

Don't freak out when your phone lights up and starts buzzing on Wednesday afternoon: it's only the federal government doing a nationwide test of the Presidential Alert system.

Cell phones that are turned on and within the range of an active cell tower are expected to receive the message. "No action is required".

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