You've probably gotten one of those aggressively loud emergency alerts on your phone -- they howl and buzz and alert phone carriers about dangerous weather or missing children.
The 90-character messages, which are called Wireless Emergency Alerts (or WEAs), are part of a program launched after Congress passed the Warning, Alert, and Response Network (WARN) Act, in 2006.
New York Magazine explains that WEAs allow for messages to be sent to every cell phone getting a signal from a geographically relevant cell tower -- which includes all of them in the case of a national emergency.
According to the FCC, there are three reasons why officials may choose to send a WEA.
1. Alerts issued by the President
2. Alerts involving imminent threats to safety or life
3. Amber Alerts
The FCC website notes that carriers may allow subscribers to block all but Presidential alerts.
Twitter user Chris Lawrence brought the quirk to the public's attention:
Twitter erupted in disbelief about the system, but there are a few checks and balances in place that would keep future President Trump from sending superfluous emergency alerts.
WEAs must be issued through FEMA's Integrated Public Alert & Warning System, which means an alert from the president must be checked and approved by FEMA before going to the public.
Of course, FEMA falls under control of the executive branch, and the head of the organization is selected by the president and reports to Homeland Security, but it's likely that the head of FEMA will not allow the service to be used for non-emergency purposes.
Additionally, gaining access to the alert system requires training. New York Magazine reports most people with access take at least two courses on how to use the system.
According to Gizmodo, Trump rarely uses a computer at all, but he does love to share his thoughts on Twitter.
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