Technologist - The FindLaw Legal Technology Blog

Warning: 'Presidential Alert System' Test Incoming

On Wednesday, October 3, 2018, at 2:18 p.m. EST, the national Emergency Alert System established by the W.A.R.N. Act of 2006, will test the "Presidential Alert System" by sending a test warning to most cellular phones in the country. The test was originally scheduled for Thursday, September 20, however, the test has been delayed amid massive public backlash.

One of the big reasons for the backlash involves the fact that, unlike other types of emergency alerts, there is no option to opt-out of these Presidential Alerts (at least for now). The system is designed to alert the public of natural disasters, manmade disasters, acts of terrorism, or other major threats to public safety. This new system is designed to target individuals who may not be plugged into the live-broadcast media on radio and TV due to the decreasing popularity of these traditional broadcast medias.

"This Is a Test"

The warning that you will likely be receiving will have a header or subject reading "Presidential Alert" and the text of the message will clearly state that it is only a test. You should expect that at or around the time of the test, your cell phone, if it is turned on and within service range, will vibrate and deliver a jarring alert tone (probably even if your phone is silenced). Notably, the system cannot be used to track or locate individual recipients.

Additionally, as many pundits have expressed concern over allowing the president the discretion on when to use the system, disaster industry insiders are thrilled to have these new capabilities. Also, the act does not permit the use of the system for anything other than major safety alerts.

How to Block the Alert

If you are dead-set on not getting the test message, the brilliant minds over at Life Hacker have the one and only sure-fire solution: Turn off your phone during the "alert period." They explain that the alert is similar to a bird trying to fly through a closed window. If your phone is on, the window is open and the bird can get in. But if your phone is off, the window is closed, and the bird will just keep "bonking" against the glass. However, the bird will give up after about 30 minutes (which is the "alert period").

Related Resources: