Though it was initially delayed, the presidential alert test is officially scheduled to happen today, Wednesday, October 2, 2018. Indeed, people around the country will be receiving a test warning message from the new system this afternoon. The test, scheduled for 2:18 p.m. ET, will allow the president to issue a text-based warning in times of crisis.
All U.S. citizens with phones capable of receiving the message should see the test message. Additionally, it will likely also be accompanied by a loud tone, similar to that of Amber and weather alerts.
The warning system is explicitly designed to alert people across the country in the event of a major catastrophic event. Messages will, however, have to be cleared through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
“When those messages appear on mobile devices, people should take those extremely seriously,” explained FEMA’s Antwane Johnson. “It has some direct impact on either life or safety.”
Johnson is, of course, the director in charge of the public warning system that will issue Wednesday’s test alert.
“If we have something that’s of national significance, we can rapidly notify the American public of that event,” he said.
Various government agencies have issued tens of thousands of emergency alerts over the past 6 years. However, those weather alerts and Amber alerts have all been regionally targeted. The presidential alert system will notify everyone, nationwide, in the event of a national crisis.
Jeh Johnson, former Secretary of Homeland Security, said that warning alerts should be an incredibly rare occurrence.
“It should be reserved for true situations, true emergencies when we need to get the public’s attention,” Johnson said. “This is something that should not be used for a political agenda.”
After all, it is not possible to opt out of these new presidential alerts.
For those who’re not fans of President Trump, don’t worry, you won’t suddenly be bombarded with Trump texts.
“One thing that we need make very clear is that there are laws, policies and procedures that are in place,” Johnson said. There are also “protocols to assure that the system is used in accordance with its intended use as defined by the law.”
In short, this won’t be like Trump’s Twitter – he will not be able to send messages on a whim.