Don’t freak out when your cell phone starts buzzing during lunch Wednesday with a message from the President. Anyone with a cell phone will get an alert from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, in coordination with the Federal Communications Commission and wireless carriers. The first-of-its kind Wireless Emergency Alert is scheduled for 12:18 p.m. Mountain Daylight Time. A few minutes later a similar alert will be issued on radio, television and cable channels across the country at 12:20 p.m.
These tests are being conducted to ensure the nationwide Emergency Alert System and the new Wireless Emergency Alert can properly warn the public about emergencies, particularly on a national level.
The cell phone alert will read “THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed.” A message above the alert will read “Presidential Alert,” but that does not mean it was sent directly from President Donald Trump. Cell towers locally and around the country will broadcast the WEA for approximately 30 minutes, but wireless phones should only receive the message once. It is possible that some people will receive the message at a slightly different time than others within that 30 minute time frame.
If a phone is switched on, within range of an active tower, and whose wireless provider participates in the test, should receive the text message. To make sure the alert is accessible to the entire public, including cell phone users who may have disabilities, the alert is accompanied by a unique tone and vibration.
Only minutes after the cell pone alert, a similar alert is scheduled to be broadcast on radio and television stations locally and around the country. That alert is scheduled to last approximately one minute. This message will be similar to others periodically conducted by the EAS with the following message: “THIS IS A TEST of the National Emergency Alert System. This system was developed by broadcast and cable operators in voluntary cooperation with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Federal Communications Commission, and local authorities to keep you informed in the event of an emergency. If this had been an actual emergency an official message would have followed the tone alert you heard at the start of this message. A similar wireless emergency alert test message has been sent to all cell phones nationwide. Some cell phones will receive the message; others will not. No action is required.”
The WEA and EAS tests are done to make sure systems are properly in place to receive the alerts and properly distribute them. The system is intended to be used only in times of emergency or disaster, delivering urgent alerts and warnings to the public. According to the Associated Press, FEMA officials estimate the cell phone alert will reach about 75 percent of all mobile phones in the country, including phones on all of the major carriers.