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FEMA Will Test an Emergency System That Lets President Trump Send You Text Alerts

2 minute read

You may be getting text messages from President Donald Trump soon.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced last week that it will conduct a national test of its Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) later this month. The text alerts, which are sent to cell phones across the country when there is a national emergency or major weather event, will show up on people’s phones as a “Presidential Alert” for some warnings.

You are probably already familiar with these types of cell phone alerts — they are the loud noise that go off on your phone when there is an event like a flash flood warning or an Amber Alert. The new “Presidential Alerts” will function in the same way.

The national public warning system “provides the President with the communications capability to address the nation during a national emergency,” the statement reads. “The national test will use the same special tone and vibration as with all WEA messages (i.e. Tornado Warning, AMBER Alert).”

And if you were wondering, you can’t opt out of the WEA test. All of the largest wireless carriers plus 100 additional carriers participate in the Emergency Alert System (EAS) and “the President has sole responsibility for determining when the national-level EAS will be activated,” according to FEMA.

Experts who spoke to NBC News said people should not equate Trump’s frequent twitter use with the emergency alerts.

“If you separate this from the politics and personality of any individual president then this is a great idea and an amazing use of technology to reach everybody if they’re in harms way,” Karen North, director of the Annenberg Digital Social Media program at the University of Southern California told NBC.

“A system like this seems necessary in an era where most people are disconnected from ‘live’ media like radio and television,” UCLA communications professor Tim Groeling told NBC. “Broadcast-based emergency alert systems … have remained professional and impartial over decades.”

The first test of the presidential alerts will take place on Sept. 20 at 2:18 p.m ET.

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