Presidential alert hits Metro Detroiters' phones
The Federal Emergency Management Agency conducted its first-ever test of the national wireless emergency system Wednesday.
As part of the test at 2:18 p.m., about 225 million electronic devices across the country received a loud tone similar to an Amber Alert or flood watch warning and a text that said “THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed.”
Merritt Soutar, 45, of Dearborn Heights, was among the cell phone users who got the alert. It arrived with a loud beeping noise.
"I think it's a pretty good idea since everyone always has their cell phones in their hands," said Soutar, who was on her lunch hour at Campus Martius in downtown Detroit when the test was conducted. "It's a good way to alert people right away."
She said alerts like the one tested Wednesday don't annoy her.
"I don't think they're too frequent," she said. "And we do get them, they're usually something very important."
The system test is for a high-level “presidential” alert that would be used only in a nationwide emergency. It was done in coordination with the Federal Communications Commission.
FEMA officials said Tuesday they would share test result data on how the testing went with mobile carriers to help ensure the system works well in a true emergency.
Phones with mobile carriers that participate in the wireless emergency alert system, which was launched in 2012 and sends out information on hazardous weather, or missing children, received the alert.
FEMA officials estimated Wednesday's test would reach about 75 percent of all mobile phones in the country, including phones on all of the major carriers.
Users can opt out of messages on missing children and natural disasters, they can’t opt out of the presidential alerts, which are issued at the direction of the White House and activated by FEMA.
Not everyone welcomed the alert. Treb McFee, 45, of Detroit, said she was trying to find a way to block the messages, because she doesn't want to hear from the president on her phone.
"I don't want to hear anything he's got to say," she said. "I don't want anything from him."