If you have an electronic device and you live in the United States, you’re about to get a presidential ping.
At 2:18 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, about 225 million mobile phones and other electronic devices will receive an emergency alert test. Some people may get the alert a bit later depending on cell phone tower issues.
It’s coming from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) which is conducting an emergency alert test to prepare in case there’s ever a true national emergency.
A tone will sound, mirroring previous alerts you may have received, like Amber Alerts or flood watch warnings. Along with that tone, you’ll get some text which says: “THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed.”
Here’s the kicker – the subject of the alert will read: “Presidential Alert.” That has some liberals really upset, complaining about President Trump. They’re saying he can’t be trusted to not use this option for future “Presidential Alerts” that don’t have anything to do with emergencies. Some have even expressed that they’re afraid he may try to use it to influence the election.
All freaking out aside, the wireless alert system actually launched in 2012 when Barack Obama was president, so it’s been around for a while. This just happens to be the first nationwide test of the system.
And there are safeguards in place for any president. FEMA officials say the administration can only send a “Presidential Alert” in case of a true national emergency if the public were in danger. Those rules were outlined in a 2006 law, so the alert system can’t be used for personal messages from the president.
Still, a group of New Yorkers is suing in federal court saying they can’t be forced to receive the alerts because they violate their right to free speech.
Older Americans will remember emergency alerts being around for decades on broadcast TV and radio. Today’s test will also reach TV and radio at 2:20 p.m. EDT.