FEMA To Test Emergency Text Messages From Trump

Daniel Fowler
September 16, 2018

Next Thursday, the Federal Emergency Management Agency will do its first test of a system that allows the president to send a message to most USA cellphones.

The Wireless Emergency Alert system message test is being carried out by FEMA in coordination with the Federal Communications Commission, FEMA said in a statement posted on its website Thursday. Users can't opt out of the WEA test, according to FEMA. "No action is needed", the message will say.

The Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) system is already in use in the U.S. -smartphone users are likely familiar with the loud, droning tone of flood warnings or Amber alerts.

US cellphone users will not be able to opt out.

Mobile alerts sent through the WEA system are now categorized as imminent threats about emergencies in an area, including extreme weather, AMBER alerts for missing children or "Presidential alerts about emergencies of national outcome", FEMA said.

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The system is also used to warn the public about risky weather, missing children, and other critical situations through alerts on cell phones. Cellphone users can opt out of natural disaster or missing children alerts.

Officials in Alaska want to hear from residents and what they think about the effectiveness of a national emergency system.

If the test is postponed for some reason, the back-up date is Wednesday, Oct. 3. It will test on September 20, FEMA representatives say. The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on its role in planning the test alert. The well-worn emergency alert system reaches mainly radio and television broadcasters, cable systems, satellite radio and television providers. It will interrupt programming for about one minute, Fema said. This will be the first national WEA test, and it is expected to be broadcast over cell towers for a 30-minute period.

While some have expressed concerns about the system, given Trump's unhinged communications on Twitter, the system won't be used for political rhetoric, since the 2015 legislation that authorizes it explicitly states that the system can not be used for anything other than alerting the public to major threats to public safety.

There have been issues with prior state alerts.

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