If you (1) have a cellphone that (2) was turned on or (3) not on an active call at the time, you received a “Presidential Alert” from the National Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) System (WAS) yesterday at 2:18pm. If you did have you phone off or were on an active call, you may have not received it until your phone was turned back on or the call was end, but if your phone was left off or your call lasted longer than 30 minutes, you may have miss the alert entirely.
Just as a quick summary of how this came to happen, we’re going to have to go through some vocab real quick, hope you’re ready.
The Integrated Public Alert and Wireless System (IPAWS), is a system designed to identify digital tech that, when used in coordination with the Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) System (that delivers these alerts to our cell phones), will allow for the easy coordination of public safety alerts at either the national level (you know, all of the U.S. of A) or a targeted geographic area (like a state or coastal county experiencing the threat of a hurricane).
“Through IPAWS, FEMA and other agencies (like NOAA and the White House) can issue public safety alerts through a number of different systems:
- WEA: The WEA delivers alerts to cell phones.
- EAS: The Emergency Alert System delivers alerts via radio and television.
- IPAWS-NOAA Gateway: This is used to deliver alerts to weather radios.
- IPAWS News Feed: This is used to deliver alerts to internet applications and websites” (howtogeek.com).
The purpose of FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) is “to coordinate the response to a disaster that has occurred in the United States and that overwhelms the resources of local and state authorities. The governor of the state in which the disaster occurs must declare a state of emergency and formally request from the president that FEMA and the federal government respond to the disaster. The only exception to the state’s gubernatorial declaration requirement occurs when an emergency or disaster takes place on federal property or to a federal asset” (Wikipedia).
As howtogeek.com explains, IPAWS is a system that is able to reach a vast amount of the population very quickly, and there are 3 basic kinds of the alerts that it sends. The first (which we are all probably a little more familiar with) are AMBER Alerts alerting us of any kidnappings in our area and giving us details for which we are to remain on the look out. The second, Extreme and Severe Threats, which serve to alert the public of imminent threats to safety, for instance, things like weather warnings. These are the type that are aimed at geographic regions usually. The third, the one we’ve all been waiting for, are Presidential Alerts: “These alerts are (by law) only used to alert the public of national emergencies—think terrorist attacks or widespread natural disasters. The alerts are issued at the direction of the President (or an appointee) and are activated by FEMA representatives.” The first two you are allowed to block from receiving, but Presidential alerts are not able to be avoided expect for the instances discussed in the introduction.
I, as a typically paranoid person, am honestly feeling much safer after knowing that I will be warned if there is any sort of disaster that requires my immediate attention. But as s enthralling as receiving the Presidential Alert was for me yesterday, I think the way social media took to it might have been the funnier route though. Many famous accounts and comedians took to the Gram and Twitter to make use of this rare opportunity for hilarious comedic content. My favorite though might have the clear evergreen content that the Houston Zoo repurposed on their Twitter feed: