Get ready to receive a text message from President Donald Trump on Sept. 20. But it won’t be a political message or attack on one of his perceived enemies—or at least, it’s not supposed to be.
He plans to message every cell phone in America to test a new Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) system that will allow any U.S. president to communicate directly via a text message with the public during a national emergency.
If you can’t remember this happening before—you’re correct. 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.
Set your own alert for a few minutes before 11:18 a.m. Pacific, 12:18 p.m. Mountain, 1:18 p.m. Central, and 2:18 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time if you don’t want to be taken by surprise by President Trump’s test.
The text will use the same buzzing and ringing sound for an AMBER alert or extreme weather warning. The text’s message will have a header of “Presidential Alert” and read, “THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed.”
While the four biggest cellular carriers are compatible with WEA, which is voluntary on their part, old phones and certain areas of some carrier networks aren’t WEA capable.
FEMA has tested a related system three times before, called the Emergency Alert System (EAS), which goes out over all participating broadcast media, including over-the-air, cable, and satellite television, and terrestrial and satellite radio. The EAS test will appear at 2:20 p.m. EDT on Sept. 20.
The EAS is an update of the tests that many people grew up with in the U.S.: “This is a test. This station is conducting a test of the Emergency Broadcasting System. This is only a test.” The new text is slightly more streamlined.