Those of us unlucky enough to have turned on mobile notifications for Donald Trump’s Twitter account know the pain of waking up to a barrage of angry, poorly-spelled, all-caps presidential missives. And thanks to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the rest of the country might soon be able to get in on that action.
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NBC reports that next Thursday FEMA will begin testing a system—one that phone customers legally can’t opt out of—which would allow the president to send messages directly to most cell phones in the country.
The test message will have a header that reads “Presidential Alert,” according to [FEMA.] Users whose phones are on will twice hear a tone and vibration and then see an English-only (for now) message: “THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed.”
Apparently, we don’t need to worry that this will lead to the nation being woken at 6AM to blaring phones and a message reading “Presidential Alert: WITCH HUNT!” Communications experts interviewed by NBC pointed out that despite Trump’s penchant for bypassing gatekeepers and speaking to the country directly, he’s not yet managed to politicize other emergency notification systems, such as TV broadcasts and AMBER Alerts. And with people increasingly turning away from TV and radio, it’s important that emergency notifications be able to reach us where we live, which these days, means on our phones. Still, couldn’t this one initiative have rolled out in, say, February 2021?