Americans may soon be able to receive messages from President Donald Trump directly on their cell phones.
But the messages will be nothing like the succinct blasts from the president’s Twitter account, which currently boasts nearly 55 million followers.
A new Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) program will be tested next week allowing Trump to send messages directly to U.S. cellphones, the Federal Emergency Management Agency said in a Thursday statement.
“The EAS [Emergency Alert System] is a national public warning system that provides the president with the communications capability to address the nation during a national emergency,” FEMA wrote.
On 9/20, @FEMA, in coordination with the @FCC, will conduct a nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System (EAS) and Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA). Find out more about these alerts and how they are used in a major event: https://t.co/XM6myYcRNF. pic.twitter.com/6569tGLx33
— FEMA Region 10 (@FEMARegion10) September 12, 2018
More than 100 mobile carriers, including all the major wireless firms, will be participating with an initial test set for Sept. 20 at 2:18 p.m. Eastern.
Cell phones will receive a tone and vibration along with a text message that reads “Presidential Alert” and “THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed.”
“The EAS is a national public warning system that provides the President with the communications capability to address the nation during a national emergency,” FEMA wrote. “The test is made available to EAS participants (i.e., radio and television broadcasters, cable systems, satellite radio and television providers, and wireline video providers) and is scheduled to last approximately one minute. The test message will be similar to regular monthly EAS test messages with which the public is familiar.”
In accordance with the Warning, Alert and Response Network Act passed by Congress in 2006, cellphone users cannot opt out of the alerts. The presidential alerts will use the same tone and vibration used in other WEA alerts such as tornado warnings or Amber Alerts.
Experts “didn’t appear to be too concerned” about the possibility that Trump would overuse the “Presidential Alert” system, according to NBC News.
“If you separate this from the politics and personality of any individual president then this is a great idea and an amazing use of technology to reach everybody if they’re in harms way,” Karen North, director of the Annenberg Digital Social Media program at the University of Southern California, told NBC News.
“A system like this seems necessary in an era where most people are disconnected from ‘live’ media like radio and television,” UCLA communications professor Tim Groeling said.
The government will not track end users’ location through the system, FEMA noted.
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