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Why You Just Got a Text From Donald Trump and FEMA

Donald Trump speaks during a press conference in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, D.C., on October 1, 2018.Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

No, you aren’t the only one who just got a text from President Donald Trump.

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Nearly every smartphone in the U.S. received an alert at 2:18 p.m. ET on Wednesday, October 3, as part of the first-ever test of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s new system. The goal of the so-called Presidential Alert is to blast a message to Americans in the event of a national emergency.

The alert is similar to the state-level systems that allow police and other local officials to send weather warnings and AMBER Alerts. However, FEMA’s system will have a larger reach as its messages go to approximately 75 percent of the country’s population, according to Time magazine.

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There is no way to opt out of the Presidential Alert, which goes to every smartphone that is turned on and within range of an active cell tower. The message on Wednesday read, “THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed.” Should an actual emergency occur, FEMA will include all necessary information and safety instructions.

Trump, 72, and future presidents will have sole responsibility in determining when the national alert is activated, but FEMA will be responsible for writing the actual messages that are sent out.

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“The president will not originate this alert, say, from his mobile device,” a senior FEMA official explained during a recent conference call, via CNN. “You would not have a situation where any sitting president would wake up one morning and attempt to send a particular message.”

Wednesday’s test was originally scheduled for September 20, but FEMA postponed it due to response efforts in the wake of Hurricane Florence.

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