Cell phone users may receive a text from President Donald Trump next Thursday as the Federal Emergency Management Agency conducts its first presidential-level Wireless Emergency Alert test. This is a first for the Wireless Emergency Alerts, which is supposed to send a text message to all mobile phones within reception distance of a cellular tower of participating carriers, which includes all the major ones.
"Users may opt of receiving alerts in the imminent threat and AMBER categories but can not opt out of receiving Presidential alerts", FEMA said.
Users whose phones are on will twice hear a tone and vibration and then see an English-only (for now) message: "THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed".
When the test happens at 1:18 p.m. central time on September 20, people will hear a tone twice followed by a vibration and the message: "THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System".
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Experts NBC spoke with also didn't seem too concerned that Trump, who often takes to social media to harangue opponents and announce policy, would use the new messaging system in a similar way.
"This is a great idea and an awesome use of technology to reach everybody if they're in harm's way", Karen North, the director of the Annenberg Digital Social Media program at the University of Southern California, told NBC News.
Presidential alerts will only be sent out if there is a national emergency that is not extreme weather or Amber Alerts.
Mobile alerts sent through the WEA system are now categorized as imminent threats about emergencies in an area, including extreme weather, AMBER alerts for missing children or "Presidential alerts about emergencies of national outcome", FEMA said.
FEMA will begin testing its WEA system at 2:18 p.m. ET to assess its "operational readiness" and make improvements if need be, the agency said in a press release this week. Under the Warning, Alert, and Response Network (WARN) Act of 2006, cellphone users can not opt out of the presidential alerts.