First ‘Presidential Alert’ Sent to American Cell Phones

Most Americans with a cell phone likely noticed an unusual emergency message, which would have arrived this week around 1:00 PM on Wednesday afternoon.

“Presidential alert,” the message read. “THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed.”

The message marks the first nationwide test of the system, which is a collaborative effort between the federal government and private cell phone carriers, and is intended to be used in obvious emergency situations, such as a natural disaster or terrorist attack.

The program is overseen by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and, according to CNN, the process of using the system sees “FEMA officials confer with other government agencies and the White House, select one of several pre-written messages, customize the message to fit the particular emergency and send it out.”

Most Americans are likely familiar with similar alerts via their radios and televisions, but this week marks the first time that federal authorities have demonstrated a similar ability to communicate emergency warnings to Americans via their mobile devices, which more than 90% of Americans now routinely rely on, according to data from the Pew Research Center.

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