Coming Wednesday to most American cellphones: a presidential text alert. The drill is scheduled to start at 2:18 p.m. ET, followed two minutes later by a similar message sent through television and radio broadcasts.
The Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) system proper was created in 2012, but it's actually been around longer than that.
The goal of the test is to ensure that EAS and WEA are both effective means of warning the public about emergencies, particularly those on the national level.
WEA: The WEA delivers alerts to cell phones. Last week, three people filed suit in NY to block the testing of the system, known as Wireless Emergency Alerts or WEA.
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The Federal Emergency Management Agency says it'll sound like an Amber Alert or flood warning. And while Americans can choose not to receive weather and AMBER alerts, they cannot opt out of presidential ones.
More than 100 carriers, including the largest carriers (Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile), will participate in the emergency alert test, FEMA said.
"Presidential Alerts are to be used during a national emergency, though none have been sent to date", the agency said on its website. A message box will appear on your phone with a loud tone and vibration, said the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
It is the first test of the national wireless emergency system by FEMA.
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A test of broadcast systems will happen at 2:20 p.m. EDT. In case of a real emergency, public safety officials would use the system to warn the public about risky situations and critical emergencies. Therefore, if you have a smartphone capable of receiving WEA alerts, your phone will receive the alert.
The then-President Barack Obama signed a law in 2016 requiring FEMA to create a system allowing the president to send cellphone alerts regarding public safety emergencies.
But in general, the process calls for the president - or his representative - to authorize FEMA to send an alert on the White House's behalf. "No action is needed", it'll read.
There will also be a way for cell phone users to partially unsubscribe to the alerts if desired. "No action is required". You also have to be within range of an active cell tower to receive the alert.
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