Expect a text from Trump Wednesday — sort of. FEMA tests Presidential Alert System

Americans will receive a presidential text alert at 2:18 p.m.

Ian Bush
October 02, 2018 - 8:23 pm
At 2:18 p.m. Wednesday, your phone will buzz with a Presidential Alert test.

FEMA/Justin Singer

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Whether or not you follow President Donald Trump on Twitter, you'll be getting a message from him on your phone Wednesday afternoon.

Federal authorities are testing the Presidential Alert System, which is designed to get your attention in the event of a coming crisis, like a national emergency or nuclear threat. 

At 2:18 p.m. — if the presidential-level alert works — your phone will vibrate, sound an alarming tone, and display a message on the screen along the lines of "this is a test; no action is needed."

Unlike the weather and Amber Alerts you can turn off, there's no opt-out for this message.

This will be the first planned test of the alert system, but not everyone wants to be on the government's contact list. 

"How is a presidential alert any different from us being in North Korea and having loudspeaker systems set up outside with a dictatorship announcing information that you cannot escape?" countered Kristine Rakowsky, who is among those suing Trump and FEMA.

She's one of the plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the president and FEMA, claiming the alerts "hijack" our phones and turn them into a "government-controlled loudspeaker" and "compels listening and speech" — since you have to tap "dismiss" on the message before you can do anything else on the device.

Rakowsky believes the real crisis is constitutional: "This is completely about our amendment rights and access to information that we should be able to opt out of that we cannot."

Federal officials argue it will be used rarely and without agenda. It "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," officials say.