Emergency alert test going out to mobile phones nationwide

Everyone will receive alert during test of national emergency alert system on Wednesday

FEMA officials said the administration can only send such an alert for national emergencies or if the public were in peril, rules outlined in a 2006 law.

Mistakes like that could make people nervous about this new nationwide alert, says Andy Whitehouse, who teaches communications at Columbia University. Users can't opt out of the presidential alert test, according to FEMA.

Government officials estimated that the alert would reach upwards of 225 million United States cellphones or around 75 percent of all phones.

FEMA is also tasked with ensuring that the President can alert the public under all conditions in cases of national emergencies, including natural disasters and terrorist threats.

The brief message will also say that it is only a TEST and that no action is needed. They expect about 75% of all wireless users to get the alert. This will be the fourth nationwide EAS test and the first nationwide WEA test.

"The test will assess the operational readiness of the infrastructure for distribution of a national message and determine whether improvements are needed", said a statement from the Oregon Office of Emergency Management (OEM).

A test of broadcast systems will happen at 2:20 p.m. EDT. This test will last about a minute and will will be similar to the regular monthly test message.

The goal of the test is to ensure that EAS and WEA are both effective means of warning the public about emergencies, particularly those on the national level.

In the statement, FEMA said cell towers will broadcast the WEA test for about 30 minutes, starting at 2:18 p.m., Eastern Daylight Time.

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Still, some worry the president will use the alerts much as he does with his Twitter account, all the time. And in January, Hawaii's emergency system sent out a false alert of an incoming ballistic missile to over one million cellphones.

It will come through a system already integrated in Hamilton County. "Getting clear and accurate information to those facing an emergency is critical in helping protect the public".

The test will include two portions.

A special alert will run across the screen of your smartphone on Wednesday. Systems are activated differently and with separate, specific sets of criteria, Warstler said. So older phones with updated software may still get the alerts.

"And that's the whole goal, that everybody stops what they're doing and listen to the message they are about to receive", Maxwell said. Personal messages, campaign messages, and other political messages aren't permitted.

It's the first test of a national presidential alert system that will let the president issue a warning about a crisis.

"It wouldn't be anything for anything that is like 'we're having a parade or someone is retiring, ' this is a very important message and this could save lives", Maxwell explained.

The text tone sounds similar to ones sent out during an AMBER ALert, prompting the Boise School District to reassure parents the alert is not spurred by an actual emergency.

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