SALT LAKE CITY (News4Utah) -You might have thought it was a weather alert or an Amber Alert but that notification on your cellphone Wednesday afternoon was a Presidential Alert, a nationwide test of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s wireless alert system.
News4Utah was Downtown when the notifications buzzed at 12:18 pm to ask people what they think about President Donald Trump and the Federal Government having access to their phones.
“I was like ‘Oh that’s cool. President Trump just texted me’,” Paige White said. “I think it’s a great idea. If there’s a nationwide emergency then it’s a great way to reach everyone who has a phone I guess.”
Robert Radtke was also in favor of the system.
“If something is important enough nationwide I think it would be worthwhile to let everybody know what’s going on,” he said.
Others were not convinced, fearing the President could misuse the system for personal or political purposes.
“President Trump could easily misuse it to promote himself,” Jeorgia Rowell-Ginneson explained. “Or promote someone else that he finds would be beneficial for his campaign.”
“I think that’s overextending his power by doing this. I’m totally against it,” Air Force veteran Gary Morris said. “He’s for sure going to run again and what is he going to tweet next? ‘Vote for me’?”
Salt Lake City Director of Emergency Management Cory Lyman says the FEMA system can be used locally for geographically targeted emergency alerts.
“That signal that we saw today the Presidential one, we can distribute that signal through what’s called IPAWS, Integrated Public Alert and Warning System,” Lyman said. “And we can draw that on a map and say we just want this to go Downtown or we want the whole county to get this.”
FEMA originally scheduled this test for September 20th but postponed it due to their response to Hurricane Florence.