Update, Monday 9:50 a.m. PT: This post has been updated to reflect a change in date for the planned test.
You’re going to get an alert on your cell phone from President Trump. It’s not another signal to let you know that he just tweeted about something, but rather a test of a new warning system set up by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The nationwide test on Oct. 3, conducted in coordination with the Federal Communications Commission, will include alerts from the Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) at 11:18 a.m. PT. and the Emergency Alert System (EAS) at 11:20 a.m. PT.
The test was originally scheduled for this Thursday, but FEMA tweeted about a change in plans on Monday morning.
Due to severe weather across much of the East Coast and ongoing response efforts, the national emergency alert test has been postponed to the backup date of Oct. 3, 2018 at 2:18 PM EDT.
— FEMA (@fema) September 17, 2018
According to FEMA, the test is meant to “assess operational readiness of the infrastructure for distribution of a national message and determine whether improvements are needed.”
Here’s what the text will look like when it comes across your phone.
“Presidential Alert: THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed.”
And the second EAS alert for radio and TV will read:
“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 EAS is a national public warning system that provides the President with the communications capability to address the nation during a national emergency. It’s intended for warnings about natural disasters, acts of terrorism or other threats to public safety — not rants about fake news, NFL players, witch hunts, or anything else that might show up here.
“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, said in a report from NBC News.
A special tone and vibration will be used to signal cell phone users — if they don’t turn off their phones. While there’s no way to opt out of the alerts, powering down devices would certainly do the trick. The hashtag #GoDark920 was being used on Twitter by those not interested in having any communication from the government.
Axios’ Ina Fried pointed out in Monday’s Login newsletter that the government has been running PSAs to prepare people for the upcoming tests. Fried found it noteworthy that one ad showed an alert coming in on a Windows Phone, rather than a more popular Android or iOS device. “Perhaps the government didn’t want to take sides on such a divisive issue,” she wrote.
During the height of tensions between the United States and North Korea earlier this year, Hawaiians were startled to receive an emergency alert on January 13 that warned of an incoming ballistic missile and told residents to immediately seek shelter. That message turned out to be a test sent in error.