On Wednesday at 2:18 p.m. EST, millions of people’s cellphones buzzed and/or beeped loudly because the federal government tested an emergency alert system, or EAS.

“Presidential Alert,” the message read on smartphone screens everywhere. “THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed.”

Here is what you need to know about this alert:

President Donald Trump didn’t write this message himself. Instead, FEMA officials are the ones who create this alert after discussing several emergency matters with other government agencies and the White House.


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It is designed to warn Americans of a national emergency like a terrorist attack or natural disasters like hurricanes. Many people often receive similar types of messages on their phones for Amber Alerts (for missing children) or weather alerts, specifically flood warnings.


FEMA officials have to sign off on emergency alerts like the one sent on Wednesday, and reportedly use a device “similar to a laptop computer.”

The presidential alert can’t be turned off, although Amber alerts and flood warning messages can be silenced.

According to CNN, FEMA officials said the emergency alert may not come through if a phone is turned off or on a call. The message on Wednesday was also reportedly displayed on other electronic devices like televisions.

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