Any cellphone that is on, in range of a cell tower, and whose provider participates in the system should be capable of receiving these alerts.
Three New Yorkers said it's not, and sued trying to block Wednesday's test of the Wireless Emergency Alert system.
The wireless alert system was launched in 2012. Eastern. Cell towers will broadcast the WEA test for about 30 minutes and the EAS test will last for about a minute.
While people can opt out of certain alerts, the one to be sent Wednesday is not one of them. Of course, you're cutting off all communication for your phone so you won't get any calls or other messages.
The intent of the alert was to test the ability to warn Americans about a disaster, such as severe weather, or an event of national outcome.
The FEMA official said that in past, smaller tests, about 75 percent of phones received the alert. The messages come from the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS), which attempts to send the alert to every cell phone within the USA operating on a network run by a carrier opting into the Wireless Emergency Alert system.
But the move has prompted a lawsuit in NY, which says that presidential alerts are a "violation of Americans' First and Fourth Amendment rights to be free from Government-compelled listening, as well as warrantless, non-consensual trespass into and seizure of their cellular devices".
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It's the same kind of message that warns people of critical situations, including unsafe weather, but the test was put on hold due to a real emergency last month.
Federal Communications Commissioner Mike O'Rielly told reporters on Tuesday that an April 5 regional test of the emergency alert system in the Washington area showed some potential issues.
The buzz and tone have the same feel and sound as those used for the Amber and weather alerts.
The system is also used for lower-level alerts such as local weather warnings and AMBER Alerts, which are used to alert the public to missing children. This will be the fourth nationwide test of the EAS after similar tests in 2011, 2016, and 2017.
"The title "Presidential Alert" has its historical roots in the Emergency Alert System and its predecessor, the Emergency Broadcast System", FEMA wrote.
"Presidential Alerts are to be used during a national emergency, though none have been sent to date", the agency said on its website.
Some Trump critics seized on the alert's transmission to poke fun at the president. Mistakes like that could make people nervous about this new nationwide alert.