You, me and every other American with a cell phone will be getting a text message from President Donald Trump on Oct. 3, 2018, and it isn't a political one. What it represents, though, is the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) testing Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA).
Most cell phone users will get the presidential alert message on Wednesday, Oct. 3, around 2:18 EDT. The message will include the header "Presidential Alert" and phones will make a loud tone and special vibration. The text will say: "THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed." The alert was originally scheduled to occur Thursday, Sept. 20, but FEMA decided to postpone it until Oct. 3, 2018, "due to ongoing response efforts to Hurricane Florence," according to its website.
The WEA was originally launched in 2012, but this is the first time the system will be tested nationally. According to a FEMA press release, there are three types of WEAs:
- Alerts to imminent threats about emergencies including extreme weather
- AMBER alerts, which notify the public of missing children
- Presidential alerts about emergencies of national consequence
You can opt out of both the imminent threat and AMBER alerts, but not the presidential alerts. Presidential alerts, according to the FEMA press release, will be used during only national emergencies (though none have been sent to date) and the president has sole responsibility for determining when such alerts are used.
For now, the presidential alert will be available only in English. Only those cell phone users whose phones are WEA-compatible, "switched on and within range of an active cell tower, and whose wireless provider participates in WEA" will get the October test message, according to the press release.
FEMA will also be testing the Emergency Alert System (EAS) for radio and television the same day. The law requires FEMA conduct nationwide tests of these public alert systems no less than once every three years. FEMA must also ensure that the president is able to alert the U.S. of threats the public safety, including natural disasters, acts of terrorism and other man-made disasters.