On Friday, the tinfoil hats of both far right and far left conspiracy theorists got just a bit tighter with the announcement from FEMA that the agency would run its first test of the cell phone Presidential Alert system.
First laid out in the WARN Act of 2006 and launched in 2012, the Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) system is the logical extension of the Emergency Alert System, the national network of warning messages that can be sent out in the event of catastrophic events.
Such a national alert system has existed since CONELRAD came online in 1951. The systems have evolved through the years, and took on the duties of warning about local civil emergencies, such as severe weather, as well as oncoming nuclear horror. They all test weekly on the radio and on TV.
So there’s nothing new or novel about a national alert system sending test messages, nor is there anything surprising about a system being set up to reach people using the dominant technology of the day – cell phones.