Presidential Alert Test Hits Cell Phones Across Iowa

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- Drake University students gave their phones a glance, swiped it away, and went right back to studying.

“I thought it was going to be a bigger deal than it was, it just really quickly popped up on the screen like an Amber Alert or a flash flood warning” said Lily Oram.

Had it been a real emergency, students say the alert would be welcome.

“Everyone is always on their phone and so it's a really good method to communicate with people that gets the message across much more straightforward than if things are on social media. A lot of times I think social media things can get convoluted and then you kind of lose the true message and this is a good way to succinctly send that out” said Valerie Meyers.

Meyers says she had heard some rumblings over how the alert system would be used given the president's heavy use of social media but believes that's overblown.

“I do think there's a difference and he would know what that difference is and what the purpose of this text is compared to like, say his personal twitter, which I think people might be equating it to which is why the reaction is quite large” she said.

So, what's the difference between this alert and others that we receive?

  • This alert can only be authorized by the president and or his designee.
  • By law it can only be used for national emergencies such as natural disasters, terror attacks, or other threats to public safety.
  • Users cant opt out of getting the alerts like you can with Amber Alerts, for example.

While the Trump Administration is the first one to test it, the system has actually been in development for years. A law passed in 2015 required FEMA to ensure that the president can alert the public in moments of national crisis.

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