'Presidential Alert': FEMA to test emergency alert system next week

Frederick Owens
September 18, 2018

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will send a test message to compatible cell phones.

When the test happens at 1:18 p.m. central time on September 20, people will hear a tone twice followed by a vibration and the message: "THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System".

Former 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.

All wireless customers will get an alert test message that will read: "THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed".

The goal of the new alert option, according to FEMA, is to add a new way for the government to reach people in major disasters and other emergencies - something the existing emergency alert system already does on other formats such as radio and television.

Cell towers will broadcast the WEA test for approximately 30 minutes beginning at 2:18 p.m. It is the system's first nationwide test in which users can not opt out.

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The message will read: "THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System".

On the off-chance a local resident doesn't receive any kind of message on September 20, Clouse said it might be a good time to check emergency notification settings and follow the other preparedness tips for National Preparedness Month.

"Based on our experience with last year's test, we would expect that there will be some congestion in the ETRS system after the test, so you should probably be prepared to spend some time completing your filings", FHH notes.

The system sends out a nationwide text to the public in the event of an emergency. Unlike other emergency alerts, there is no way to opt out of the presidential alerts.

The test is meant to ensure public safety officials have the methods and systems that will deliver urgent alerts and warnings to the public in times of an emergency or disaster. It's basically the cell phone version of the Emergency Broadcast System that we are all familiar with, mostly because of the tests that are broadcast over television or radio at various times.

In the event of severe weather or any other emergency, the backup date for the test will be October 3.

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