FEMA sends test of ‘Presidential Alert’ system to cellphones

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Millions of cellphones across the U.S. buzzed at 2:18 p.m. ET on Wednesday in the first test of the new “Presidential Alert” wireless warning system.

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

It was soon followed by a more familiar test — the Emergency Alert System test on televisions and radios.

Why did I get this alert?

You received Wednesday’s alert because you have a cellphone and your service provider is one of the more than 100 service providers that participate in the Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) system, which is run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

FEMA sent the alert as the first test of the system to push an alert to cellphones across the U.S. — what the agency is labeling a “Presidential Alert.”

What makes this alert presidential?

The header “Presidential Alert” indicated that this particular message is meant to go out across the country during a national emergency. Other alerts are more local, notifying people of severe weather or Amber Alerts.