With the push of a button and at the direction of President Donald Trump, a “Presidential Alert” was sent to all cellphones across America at 2:18 p.m. ET yesterday.
The message was the first test of what many are calling the “Presidential Alert” system, a new way to notify Americans across the country of national emergencies.
Here’s what it looked like, in case you were one of the few who didn’t get the alert, or you don’t have a cell phone:
A 2015 law called the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System Modernization Act limits the scope of what can be considered a valid emergency alert:
Except to the extent necessary for testing the public alert and warning system, the public alert and warning 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.
The idea for this system was sponsored by Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin) and signed into law by then-President Barack Obama.
Despite the wording of the message, this is not a presidential alert system, explains Law & Crime:
It is a Wireless Emergency Alert system set up by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to allow government officials to swiftly send information to the American public in a time of crisis, specifically terror attacks, natural disasters, or other public safety threats.
The alert everyone got this week was not sent by Trump, despite the misleading title. It was sent by FEMA as a test of the system. In the future, the president will have the ability to send messages, as will other officials from federal, state, tribal, and local governments.
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