back to article US mobe owners will get presidential text message at 2:18 pm Eastern Time

At 2:18 pm EDT on Wednesday (11:18 am PDT), most mobile subscribers in the US can expect a "Presidential Alert" to brighten their day. It won't be the typical Trump tweet; rather the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) will be testing the Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) and Emergency Alert System (EAS), under …

  1. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge
    Headmaster

    "And EAS alert can be avoided with a mass media fast"

    Translation please.

    1. rcxb

      Re: "And EAS alert can be avoided with a mass media fast"

      Register-to-English translation: Shut off your TV, radio, and mobile phones, and you won't see any emergency alerts.

    2. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: "And EAS alert can be avoided with a mass media fast"

      Fast, as in fasting.

      C.

    3. JohnFen Silver badge

      Re: "And EAS alert can be avoided with a mass media fast"

      I interpret this as meaning "turn off your phone and you won't be bothered by this."

    4. Oh Homer
      Headmaster

      Re: "Translation please"

      fast

      to abstain from all food.

      Or in this case, to abstain from consuming any media, at least long enough to avoid being spammed by the orangutang that's taken over the White House.

  2. malle-herbert Silver badge
    Trollface

    The message will say: “THIS IS A TEST..."

    If the message really was from Trump himself it would probably read :

    "This is a fake test... totally fake...all made up by the fake news media..."

    Or :

    "This is a test... the best test you've ever seen... believe me !"

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: The message will say: “THIS IS A TEST..."

      And like all good alerts, when the real thing happens, it will shout: "This is NOT a drill" 4 or 5 times.

      1. Captain Scarlet Silver badge

        Re: The message will say: “THIS IS A TEST..."

        I thought that happened only in films, when the fire larm goes off here hardly anyone moves until one person grabs their coat and heads for the exit.

  3. macjules Silver badge
    Facepalm

    "What could possibly go wrong?"

    ... As the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency said last January.

    1. Christian Berger Silver badge

      Don't worry

      This feed will probably only be accessible from a special terminal located at Donald's bathroom.

  4. Cardinal

    "You know it's serious government business from the number of acronyms involved."

    wdww? - MORE ACRONYMS!

    wdwwt? - NOW!

    1. Pirate Dave
      1. Steve Knox
        Boffin

        WWJD???

        Here's a simple test for you. Find someone with a WWJD bracelet (or bumper sticker or magnet, whatever) and hand them a bottle of water.

        If you don't get a bottle of wine back from them, you know they're not serious.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          we keep the wine to ourselves

          1. Someone Else Silver badge

            Not a particularly Christian response, now is it? But what one would expect from a CINO.

      2. stiine Bronze badge
        Holmes

        re: WWJD

        Well, since J is for Jessie, I guess the correct answer is: He'd rob the train.

  5. Pirate Dave
    Pirate

    Yep

    just got it. It even sounded like the old ones on TV.

    Not sure why it needed to be called the "Presidential" warning test. That part is kind of spooky.

    1. jelabarre59 Silver badge

      Re: Yep

      just got it. It even sounded like the old ones on TV.

      Just checked now to see if it came through. If it made noise I'd never have heard it, since I keep the phone on the charger in the kitchen while working (and pretty much the rest of the time as well).

      Surprised it worked, as we have pretty much NO signal at the house.

    2. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Yep

      No message here but then I'm not on a feature phone just an old Samsung flip phone. It does do texting but nothing fancy like emoticons or even apps (except for the built in browser). Or, my local carrier didn't pass it on.

      1. joed

        Re: Yep

        I don't know that it worked. My old flip phone with PASG "plan" and messaging disabled by TM (excluding these sent by them) have not shown any. Ruckus at the office was much lesser than expected. I've switched mine to airplane mode but turned it back on early enough for retries to get through. Nothing. Not that I cared much for any such notification.

    3. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: Yep

      Not sure why it needed to be called the "Presidential" warning test.

      Because there are different classes of WEAs. You can, in fact, opt out of all of them except the Presidential ones, which are only supposed to be used in world-is-burning sorts of emergencies. Though I personally struggle to think of a use case where this will actually be helpful.

      I've opted out of everything except Presidentials myself. I have never been in any position to do anything useful with an Amber Alert (which are nearly always "look for a car matching this description, last seen hundreds of miles from where you are a couple of days ago, so good luck with that, particularly if you're not actually on the road"), and the other sort have proven equally useless. I think the only time I've ever heard one of the "severe weather" ones, it was for thunderstorms that were, again, far away from my current location. Useless.

      And the alert klaxon is fucking horrible. The first time it went off while I was driving I nearly jumped out of my skin (particularly since my phone was Bluetooth-linked to the car, so it played through the speakers). I thought I had hit an air-raid siren or something.

      I grew up in a world without mobile phones and push notifications from the Feds,1 and many of us survived to adulthood, despite the odds. I think I'll continue to take my chances.

      1Aside from the old EBS, which we hardly ever noticed, because we didn't have the television or radio on all the time.

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Yep

        "Because there are different classes of WEAs. You can, in fact, opt out of all of them except the Presidential ones, which are only supposed to be used in world-is-burning sorts of emergencies. Though I personally struggle to think of a use case where this will actually be helpful."

        Two upvotes for that. Politicians and CEO's will tweet out mindless drivel at the drop of a hat, but if something important happens it will take them AT LEAST an hour to figure out what spin to put on it. By that time, the neighborhood is coated in green glass.

    4. hplasm Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: Yep

      "Not sure why it needed to be called the "Presidential" warning test. That part is kind of spooky."

      Warning!:- have you seen what you have for a President?

  6. Chris G Silver badge

    Spooky

    "Not sure why it needed to be called the "Presidential" warning test. That part is kind of spooky."

    It's part of a new Whitearse project to extend Tweeting to all phones in the US and no, opting out won't be an option.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Spooky

      Thanks, Obama!

      http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/technology/2011/05/president-obama-could-send-text-message-warnings-in-new-plan-system.html

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If they say "This is a test" then how do you know all subsequent messages aren't tests? You could now view this as a test system. They could have said "This is a test, any subsequent messages are from the orange buffoon starting world war 3, though feel free to check twitter first for confirmation. Women can safely ignore these messages because you don't matter in this government no matter what happened to you."

    Harsh but true.

  8. noddybollock
    Trollface

    Aww - so the message won't say 'lock her up' then?

    1. Version 1.0 Silver badge

      Which one? Clinton or Ford?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Embrace the healing power of "and".

    2. Tom 35 Silver badge

      I have very big hands.

  9. Version 1.0 Silver badge
    Facepalm

    My phones both went off just now - until I read this story I didn't realize that it was a "Presidential" test, I just turned the message off without looking at it. If they do this again I'll disable the feature entirely.

    1. Eddy Ito Silver badge

      You might want to check. On my phone it's the only one of the various "alerts" that I can't disable. Maybe it's time to root my phone.

      1. JohnFen Silver badge

        Yes, the law says that users shouldn't be able to disable the "presidential" alerts (but, weirdly, also makes carrier participation in this optional, so your carrier might not do this at all).

        And I agree with a couple of other commenters here -- "Presidential" is a very creepy and bizarre thing to call this. Did nobody think to call it what it is -- a "FEMA Alert"? A "Presidential" alert sounds like one you can safely ignore. a "FEMA" alert sounds like it's related to a national emergency.

        1. Eddy Ito Silver badge

          That's the crux of the problem. My phone has AMBER Alerts, Severe Threat Alerts, Extreme Threat Alerts, and Presidential Alerts. So in theory, the Presidential level is even worse than an Extreme Threat. What does that mean exactly? Personally, I'd rather go on about my day and be atomized rather than know 90 seconds ahead of time so I have time to kiss my arse goodbye. Let's face it, if my image is going to be etched into the stone behind me by an ICBM I'd rather future scientists see it and know that I was caught walking along instead of wondering, "Was this guy licking his balls? Why would he do it here? Wait, is that another one doing the same thing while looking at some rectangular object?"

          Sorry, I just don't see the point.

          1. JohnFen Silver badge

            "Sorry, I just don't see the point."

            Me neither.

          2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

            So in theory, the Presidential level is even worse than an Extreme Threat.

            Yes, that fits with my analysis of the President, too.

      2. MachDiamond Silver badge

        "You might want to check. On my phone it's the only one of the various "alerts" that I can't disable. Maybe it's time to root my phone."

        I went the whole way and sent a complaint letter to my carrier to be able to opt-out. There isn't anything a politician has to say that is that important to me that is worth the nasty sound.

  10. Brian Miller

    Just hack the system like everybody else, ok?

    Seriously, why does the government need to have a special alert system? Can't they just hack it like everybody else? "Oh look at us, we need our own special annoyance tone. Update your OS or you're in violation."

    Yes, we've been alerted that we have a president. We knew that already.

    1. Someone Else Silver badge

      @Brian Miller -- Re: Just hack the system like everybody else, ok?

      Yes, we've been alerted that we have a president. We knew that already.

      That we have a President is demonstrably Fake News!

      1. Haku

        Re: @Brian Miller -- Just hack the system like everybody else, ok?

        And remember, kids, Trump doesn't lie, he just tells fake truths.

  11. Garymrrsn

    A Perfect Opportunity...

    for millions of Americans to symbolically delete Trump.

    1. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: A Perfect Opportunity...

      "A Perfect Opportunity...

      for millions of Americans to symbolically delete Trump."

      ... and replace him with a Hillary?

      You have to step back and realize that the other major candidate was worse and the 2nd tier candidates were whack jobs to the most extreme degree. If there were a quality independent candidate in the last election or at least one with a more moderate view and at least some qualifications, the long history of a two party system might have been broken.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Its just an update of the Civil Defense siren and Emergency Broadcast System

    Got it. Unlike the recent Hawaii state system balls up it was obviously a test.

    In SF the sirens have been going off as a test at 12 noon for decades. The only time I've have heard a legit EBS warning, due to a refinery fire in the North Bay, the message was unintelligible. Had to turn on the TV news to find out what the garbled message meant. Thats in more than three decades. Back in the old days, during the Cold War, the tests were regular and well publicized. And quiet sobering. Given that this is a target rich environment.

    .

    The system around here is mainly for tsunamis, and if the PRK decides to let off a pot shot and the Aegis cruisers and ABM's in Alaska are activated. It would be interesting to see how they phrase that warning.

    But its not for earthquakes. You have to sign up for the USGS app for that. Given that were have not had a major earthquake for almost 25 years the next one is going to be lots of fun. With the cell phone system down for weeks / months.

  13. RNixon

    Not on my phone.

    I have a world phone imported from overseas - it doesn't get these alerts at all. (it's a Gemini PDA.)

    Nor Amber alerts, etc.

    And not every cell provider in the US participates, also. The big ones do ,but not all the small ones.

  14. JimmyPage Silver badge
    WTF?

    Ring ring. Ring ring.

    I think the 1950s are calling ....

  15. Chairman of the Bored Silver badge

    So...

    ...my phone is now supposed to warn me about the president? How very interesting.

  16. Chairman of the Bored Silver badge

    Amber Alerts?

    With the Prez Warning at least its fairly clear what offices generate the warnings.

    But what about these Amber Alerts? I've wondered who exactly decides what unlucky kid gets featured on these. I know that the actual number of non-family forcible abductions in the US are actually fairly low ... out of something like 800,000 missing persons reports per year something in the low hundreds are what we would think of as classical kidnapping events. But I've seen precisely one Amber Alert in two years, living in the boonies but within an easy drive of major population centers. Put another way, if one of my kids disappears and there is some witness that saw them in a vehicle - does a non-connected, 9-5 working schmuck like me rate getting an alert sent out?

    A guy I know had a kid disappear; witnesses saw her walk off a school bus and get coaxed into a car that drove away. His first clue was when she didn't arrive home. He had one hell of a hard time getting the police to take things seriously. Ultimately it did work out OK; it turns out that the ex-wife and in-laws decided to play a rousing game of "capture the flag" using a human being. Poor form, that.

    1. JohnFen Silver badge

      Re: Amber Alerts?

      "With the Prez Warning at least its fairly clear what offices generate the warnings."

      Except it's not, as the office of the president does not generate the warnings. FEMA does.

      What criteria must be met to issue an amber alert is up to each state. Most states have policies that adhere pretty closely to federal guidelines, which are:

      There is reasonable belief by law enforcement that an abduction has occurred.

      The law enforcement agency believes that the child is in imminent danger of serious bodily injury or death.

      There is enough descriptive information about the victim and the abduction for law enforcement to issue an AMBER Alert to assist in the recovery of the child.

      The abduction is of a child aged 17 years or younger.

      The child’s name and other critical data elements, including the Child Abduction flag, have been entered into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) system.

      https://www.amberalert.gov/faqs.htm

      Also, unlike Presidental alerts, you can disable your phone from receiving amber alerts.

      1. Chairman of the Bored Silver badge

        Re: Amber Alerts?

        @JohnFen,

        +1 for the insightful reply and useful link!

      2. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Amber Alerts?

        "Also, unlike Presidental alerts, you can disable your phone from receiving amber alerts."

        And thank goodness for that. I'm out in the boonies and don't spend my days walking around taking note of every person and car I see. The chances that I'll be able to help in any sort of enquiry is nil or at least so many naughts to the right of the decimal that it's the same thing.

  17. Someone Else Silver badge

    STFU, Donnie!

  18. Allan George Dyer Silver badge

    At least it wasn't 2:18am.

    Obligatory xkcd

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Wow...

      I didn't realise who Stanislav Petrov was. Made for some awe inspiring reading over lunch - thanks!

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanislav_Petrov

      (To save people the click: He's the Russian commander who had an early warning system report that the US had launched a nuclear attack, and *didn't* report it up the chain because he judged the system to be faulty. Basically saving us all from nuclear war.)

  19. swm Bronze badge

    It was sort of neat - I was in chorus and the chorus director said for everyone to leave their phones on. All of the phones sounded at the same time.

  20. jake Silver badge

    Just an observation.

    The US is rather large, and a lot of people live here. What, exactly, could ever be so important that every single one of us needs to get an emergency notification? That's Alaska to Florida, Maine to Southern California, and what the hell, let's throw in Hawaiʻi while we're at it.

    I live in California, and frankly I can't imagine a state-wide emergency so vast that all of California needs notification immediately. Or even half of CA. Or even a quarter, for that matter.

    All this thing is is an ego-massager for all parties involved with the broadcast. Starting with the Idiot in Chief, whose office has absolutely nothing to do with it despite the name.

    What a fucking waste of taxpayer money.

    1. stiine Bronze badge
      Mushroom

      Re: Just an observation.

      That we could do anything about?

      Absolutely fucking nothing.

      The only event that would merit a real presidential alert would be the simultaneous launching of ICBMs by every nation in the world, including the U.S.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Just an observation.

        stiine, I fail to see why even that would merit such an alert. What would be the point? To ensure that as many people as possible's last few seconds were panic-stricken? Me, I'd rather go into oblivion oblivious! I only have one life, I want to enjoy every minute.

        1. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

          Re: Just an observation.

          Because the 0.001% would have time to get to their nuke-proof shelters.

          A world full of top politicians and CEOs? I give humanity about three weeks before it became totally extinct.

      2. Someone Else Silver badge

        @stiine -- Re: Just an observation.

        The only event that would merit a real presidential alert would be the simultaneous launching of ICBMs by every nation in the world, including the U.S. Herr Drumpf announcing he was abdicating, and moving to Paraguay (or some other place where old Fascists go to die...and that has no extradition treaty with the U.S.)

        There, FTFY

        1. Jtom Bronze badge

          Re: @stiine -- Just an observation.

          Fascists order things done using a pen and a phone. That would be Obama.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Just an observation.

      What, exactly, could ever be so important that every single one of us needs to get an emergency notification? That's Alaska to Florida, Maine to Southern California, and what the hell, let's throw in Hawaiʻi while we're at it.

      Oh, some dangerous loony suddenly becoming president of all of it?

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Just an observation.

        "Oh, some dangerous loony suddenly becoming president of all of it?"

        Yeah, we were lucky SHE lost.

    3. William-40

      Apple support phone number

      Yeah actually i agree with your thinking they never care for the tax payers money its nothing much as a stupidity planned to do by one.

  21. Archangel_

    John McAfee has got his knickers in a twist about it:

    https://twitter.com/officialmcafee/status/1047585232831041536

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Test report

    So how do they know if the test worked and everyone received it? Is everyone meant to text back a confirmation?

    1. Pirate Dave
      Pirate

      Re: Test report

      No, they're just monitoring the replies to this story on El Reg.

    2. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: Test report

      They are canvassing the major telco to get a take on the number of complaints.

  23. Jtom Bronze badge

    My wife's Samsung Galaxy 6 was turned on, and we have Verizon service. Nothing. Zippo. Phone was quiet the entire day, and no alerts were received. I have an older mode Samsung Galaxy, but the battery was drained, as usual. I effin hate cell phones, and regret being in the group that decided the tech specs for roaming back about twenty-five years ago.

    The worst thing I can imagine is a national alert if something were to go seriously wrong. What would happen other than mass panic, gridlock, and riots? A very selective alert to key people in the event of a massive threat would better serve the country, and, no, I would not be included in it. If I were, I would just pour me a gin and tonic, and wait for the inevitable.

  24. MachDiamond Silver badge

    The perfect opportunity

    The only benefit I can see is if there is a person at work that you think would be eminently suitable for a quick trip to the supply closet you could always raise an eyebrow and ask. It doesn't have to be work, it could be anywhere.

    It would be interesting to see if, in the event of a false alarm, there were a rash of sexual harassment suits immediately following or if maternity wards were swamped 9 months on.

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