Trump can text every phone in the US with a 'presidential alert'

A mobile alert on Oct. 3 will test the government's ability to send out a nationwide emergency message.

Gordon Gottsegen CNET contributor
Gordon Gottsegen is a tech writer who has experience working at publications like Wired. He loves testing out new gadgets and complaining about them. He is the ghost of all failed Kickstarters.
Gordon Gottsegen

FEMA says the alert will look something like this.


Don't freak out when you get a text from the government on Oct. 3.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is conducting a nationwide test of its Emergency Alert System and Wireless Emergency Alerts on Oct. 3, 2018 at 2:18 p.m. ET.

The test of the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System, or IPAWS, is supposed to determine the readiness of the president to send out a nationwide message in case of emergency. If you've ever received one of those Amber Alerts on your phone, the Oct. 3 alert will pop up similarly. FEMA says the test will have the banner "Presidential Alert" and read, "THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed."

The Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) test message will be sent out to every cellphone with a wireless carrier that participates in the WEA program. FEMA says that WEA has over 100 participating carriers, including the largest providers, so odds are your phone will get this message.

The original test was supposed to occur on Sept. 20, but has been rescheduled to its Oct. 3 backup date.

A good national alert system is helpful during times of emergency, but a bad system can be disastrous. In January, there was an alert for an incoming ballistic missile in Hawaii. The alert later turned out to be a false alarm, but it reportedly scared a lot of people before being debunked.