Nationwide Test of Presidential Alert System Test Postponed

(Bloomberg) -- The Federal Emergency Management Agency postponed its first national test of a national wireless alert system that allows the president to send text messages directly to most U.S. mobile-phone users.

The delay to Oct. 3 from Sept. 20 is due to the ongoing response to Hurricane Florence stalks the Southeastern U.S.

The test will take place on its backup date, FEMA said. The message will be identified as a “Presidential Alert” and according to FEMA it will contain the text: “THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed.” Carriers across the country will participate in the test, meaning that most -- but not all -- mobile users will receive the message with no ability to opt out, the agency said in a statement last week.

FEMA developed the Wireless Emergency Alerts system under a 2016 law enacted by President Barack Obama. It specifies that the system can only be used to communicate about disasters or terrorist attacks. That means it’s unlikely that President Donald Trump, whose use of Twitter has revolutionized White House communications, could use it to send personal messages.

“The WEA system is used to warn the public about dangerous weather, missing children, and other critical situations,” the agency said.

Testing will start at 2:18 p.m. Eastern time and last for about half an hour, FEMA said. It said cell phones should only receive the message once.

The agency also postponed to Oct. 3 conduct a separate test of a system that sends alerts via radio and television broadcasters. That system has been tested before.

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