- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 15, 2018

The U.S. government is preparing to conduct the first nationwide test of a feature designed to help the president reach the public during emergencies by sending warnings relayed through the country’s largest wireless network providers to mobile phones within range.

Most cell phones capable of connecting to the internet will display a “Presidential Alert” at 2:18 p.m. EDT on Sept. 20, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced this week.

Conducted minutes before a similar alert is slated to be broadcast on radio and television, the inaugural coast-to-coast test of the Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) system will gauge the readiness of the infrastructure needed for notifying the public of dire warnings, including specifically those issued directly from the White House, FEMA said Thursday.

Compatible cellphones that are powered on, within range of an active cellular tower and connected to any of more than 100 wireless providers will receive a “Presidential Alert” during Thursday’s test, FEMA said.

“THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed,” the message will say.

Mobile alerts sent through the WEA system are currently categorized as imminent threats about emergencies in an area, including extreme weather, AMBER alerts for missing children or “Presidential alerts about emergencies of national consequence,” FEMA said.

“Users may opt of receiving alerts in the imminent threat and AMBER categories but cannot opt out of receiving Presidential alerts,” FEMA said.

“Presidential Alerts are to be used during a national emergency, though none have been sent to date. This will be the first national WEA test.”

The WEA test is being conducted in conjunction with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and will be followed moments later by a test of the Emergency Alert System, a similar warning system used to broadcast alerts on radio and television.

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