A few years ago, I wrote about wireless emergency alerts on the iPhone, and I explained that there are three kinds: (1) emergency alerts issued because of an imminent threat to public safety or life, such as evacuation orders or shelter in place orders due to severe weather, a terrorist threat, or a chemical spill; (2) AMBER alerts for when a child is abducted, and (3) Presidential Alerts. All three alerts arise out of the Warning Alert and Response Network Act, sometimes called the WARN Act, 47 U.S.C. § 1201, and more specifically the Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) program which was created pursuant to the WARN Act by the FCC working with FEMA.
When I wrote that post in 2013, I noted that no president had ever issued a Presidential Alert under WEA or similar prior systems. And I also noted that while the WARN Act provides in 47 U.S.C. § 1201(b)(2)(E) that cell phone users may opt-out of emergency alerts and AMBER Alerts, a user may not opt-out of Presidential Alerts. Thus, if you open the Settings app on your iPhone and tap Notifications and then scroll to the bottom, you will see that you only have on/off switches for the first two types of alerts:
Tomorrow, October 3, 2018 at 2:18 p.m. Eastern / 1:18 p.m. Central / 12:18 p.m. Mountain / 11:18 a.m. Pacific, FEMA and the FCC will conduct the first-ever test of a Presidential Alert. Note that while the test will start at 2:18 p.m. Eastern, it will continue for 30 minutes, so if your iPhone doesn't get the alert right away, it may come at some other time during that 30 minute window. (This test was originally planned for September 20, but it was delayed because of Hurricane Florence.) The message will have a header that reads "Presidential Alert" and the body of the message will say: "THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed."
If you will be in court or somewhere else where it would be inappropriate for your iPhone to make a loud noise, TURN OFF YOUR IPHONE BEFORE THAT TIME. And if you are around other cellphones that make a loud noise tomorrow, now you know what is going on.
Hopefully the test will be deemed a success and we won't have to go through this again for a long time. And also, my understanding is that the rumors are false, and President Trump will not begin using the Presidential Alert system to send all of his tweets to each of us. At least, I hope those rumors are false.