If you live in the United States and own a cell phone, there’s a pretty good chance that on Wednesday at around 2:18 p.m. EST, you’re going to receive a text from President Trump. Well, kind of. The “Presidential Alert” that will pop up on the screens of anyone with a U.S. phone number is actually a test of the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System, which is meant to provide the White House with a way to warn the nation of emergencies relating to natural disasters, terrorism and other “extreme” circumstances. The message will read, “THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed.” Two minutes later, FEMA will test its Emergency Alert System with nationwide messages on TV and radio. No, you cannot opt out of receiving the alerts. Happy Wednesday.
REMINDER: Tomorrow, 10/3 at 2:18 PM EDT, there will be a nationwide test of the Wireless Emergency Alert system, in coordination w/ @FCC. You’ll get a message on your phone with a tone & vibration. This is not a text & your phone number is not shared with anyone. pic.twitter.com/317vmFA1vY
— Homeland Security (@DHSgov) October 2, 2018
Some have taken issue with the inability to toggle out of receiving the alerts, as one can with AMBER alerts and other emergency weather notifications. Last week, three New York residents sued the federal government over the upcoming test, claiming that it is a violation of their right to free speech that amounts to “an unconstitutional seizure of their electronic devices,” according to Politico. Though there’s no way to guarantee you won’t receive the alert, FEMA estimates that only 75 percent of phones will get the message, which could take up to 30 minutes to disseminate. If you’re on a call, out of range of a cell phone tower or if your phone is powered off, there’s a chance the message won’t make it. The idea, however, is for the test and whatever “critical lifesaving information” the president may need to relay to the public in the future to find its way to the smartphone screen of every American.
If you’re worried that President Trump will abuse his ability to channel messages directly into your phone, fear not. Though it will come from the office of the president, Donald Trump will not actually write the message, as you may glean from its clean syntax and proper capitalization. Even if Trump wanted to use the service to rail against Fake News or the Russia investigation, he legally wouldn’t be able to do so. In 2016, President Obama signed a law stating that the system “shall not be used to transmit a message that does not relate to a natural disaster, act of terrorism, or other man-made disaster or threat to public safety.” That is, of course, unless the system needs to be tested.