Emergency Presidential Alert test more effective than most things that begin in the Beltway | VailDaily.com

Emergency Presidential Alert test more effective than most things that begin in the Beltway

EAGLE COUNTY — The feds tested a nationwide alert system just past noon Wednesday, Oct. 3, and it worked fairly well.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Federal Communications Commission tested their Presidential Alert system for the first time at 12:18 p.m. Wednesday.

The test hit some phones, but not others. In the bustling halls of the Eagle County Justice Center in Eagle, for example, most of the phones lit up — but some did not.

Jennifer Kirkland is 911 operations administrator at Vail's Public Safety Communications Center. She said the alerts have the potential to reach from Gypsum to Frisco from local cell towers.

"Wireless emergency alerts are one tool in the toolbox. If they send an actual alert, they'll use several tools," Kirkland said.

Cellphones that were switched on Wednesday, within range of an active cell tower and whose wireless carrier participates in Wireless Emergency Alerts should have received a test message from the Emergency Alert System, a national public warning system that provides the president with the capability to address the nation during a national emergency.

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Wednesday's test featured a header that read "Presidential Alert," and a brief message from FEMA about the test. Phones that were not on silent made the same tone as they do when they receive tornado warnings or an AMBER alert.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vaildaily.com.

Presidential Alert Facts

Here are some basic facts:

• No, you cannot opt out, whether or not you like the president. While you can decide to no longer receive regional notifications, a 2006 law prohibits users from opting out of a presidential alert.

• A Presidential Alert has never been sent before. Text alerts have been sent for regional weather and other emergencies, but a president has never used the system to send a text to the entire country about an “emergency of national consequence.”

• The national system was tested for the first time Wednesday, Oct. 3.

• The Federal Emergency Management Agency activates the alert. The president has to direct the agency to send an alert, but FEMA officials have to activate the message and send it out.

• Receiving the alert does not allow the government to know your location.