As if you don’t hear enough from President Donald Trump on TV and Twitter, he’s about to infiltrate your lives in a new and more personal way. On Thursday, Sept. 20, a "Presidential Alert" text will be sent out to most people with cell phones at 2:18 p.m. ET. But don't panic — it's just a test.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced they’re testing a wireless emergency alert to almost all mobile devices in the U.S. According to a government announcement, the notification will read: “THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed.”
The Topeka Capital-Journal reported that wireless phone owners will not be able to turn off the presidential alerts and cannot opt out of the test message. The only way to do so would be if you’re hiding under a rock and don’t have a cell phone — or if you use that rock to smash your phone before next Thursday.
The announcement about the alert stated, "If your phone is turned on, within range of an active cell tower and whose wireless provider participates in WEA [Wireless Emergency Alerts], the phone should be capable of receiving the message. This means just about every phone at your work place will receive the text."
Basically, they mean business.
The government announcement advised that workplaces prepare for virtually everyone with a cell phone to get an alert at the same time, which “will likely set off an audible alarm for a short time.” So perhaps employers should just tell their employees to take a break at that point Thursday.
Some people on Twitter wondered why the message was given the title "Presidential Alert" when it appeared to be designed for the purposes of FEMA and the FCC, but the reasoning is unclear.
The news about the presidential alert is being spread by law enforcement and city agencies both big and small. This mass media exposure could have to do with the fact that Hawaiian officials experienced a text notification blunder of massive proportions with an alert at the beginning of the year.
In January, residents of Hawaii received a false emergency alert that alleged a missile was headed for the island. As you can imagine, panic ensued. The Verge reported that the Hawaiian Governor David Ige said the incorrect cell phone alert happened as a result of human error. The cell phone “emergency alert” read, “Ballistic missile threat inbound to Hawaii. Seek immediate shelter. This is not a drill.” That incident gave officials all the more reason to emphasize the fact that this presidential alert is a drill.
The idea of a "Presidential Alert" has been in the works for some time. Back in 2011, The Washington Post's Ed O'Keefe reported that the FCC approved a plan to test the first "Presidential Alert" that would require TV, radio, cable, and satellite stations and providers to participate in the message. The report said that it would allow the President's office to broadcast warnings if events such as natural disasters or terrorist attacks occurred. O'Keefe compared the alerts to a scene from 1984 by George Orwell, and noted that no date for the test had been set.
Now, the "Presidential Alert" will become our cell phone reality on Sept. 20. Get ready for the attention grabbing message.