TODAY: Americans to receive first-ever Presidential alert

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(CBS/AP) – Americans nationwide will receive an alert on their cell phones from President Trump for the first time ever on Wednesday, October 3. It’s the first test of a national presidential alert system that will allow any president issue a warning about a crisis.  

That could include a missile launched by another country at the United States, or a tsunami. 

Government agencies nationwide have issued more than 40,000 emergency alerts to cell phones since 2012. But those AMBER and weather alerts target specific regions.

This new presidential alert will be nationwide and only used for advance warning of national crises.

Former Secretary of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson says it is designed to be used very specifically – and rarely. He says that’s especially important because no one can opt out of these alerts.

A tone will sound at 2:18 p.m. EDT, similar to that of an Amber Alert or flood watch warning, and the subject of the alert will read: “Presidential Alert” and text will say: “THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed.” 

It is being completed 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 sends out information on hazardous weather, or missing children, will get the alert. FEMA officials estimate it will reach about 75 percent of all mobile phones in the country, including phones on all of the major carriers.

The wireless alert system launched in 2012. While 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.

FEMA officials said the administration can only send such an alert for national emergencies or if the public were in peril, rules outlined in a 2006 law, and they say it can’t be used for any sort of personal message from the president.

Three New Yorkers filed a federal lawsuit last week attempting to block the test, saying it violates free speech and is an unconstitutional seizure of electronic devices.

The test will set off the same loud sound used for other alerts.  

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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