‘Presidential Alert’ sent to cell phones nationwide


NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — If you have a cell phone that was turned on and near a cell tower at 2:18 Wednesday afternoon, you likely got a “Presidential Alert” text. 

It was a big test of the wireless emergency alert system: seeing if it could reach people across the country within minutes. 

The goal of the Presidential Alert is to keep people informed and safe during a nationwide emergency.

“If we can’t contact you, we can’t alert you of any life-safety issues and protective actions to take,” said Jim Redick, Norfolk’s Director of Emergency Preparedness and Response. “We find that a lot more folks are leaning toward mobile versus landline.”

The Wireless Emergency Alert has been around since 2012, and you’ve probably already seen it in the form of Amber Alerts and severe weather alerts.  Todays “Presidential Alert” was a bigger stress on the system.

Redick said, “We want to keep folks informed and the infrastructure exists to do that, the technology exists to do that, but unless it’s tested, you don’t know for sure if its really going to be there when you need it the most.”

Redick also believes it’s important the alerts don’t become political. 

“Regardless of who the administration is, it’s gotta be apolitical because as soon as a system like that becomes political, it will become worthless right then,” he said.

He hopes people consider signing up on the local level. 

Redick said, “We ask folks to look at this and consider ‘How will they be notified? How will they be kept informed during any disaster?’  And the answer here is either Norfolk alert for local emergencies or wireless emergency alert.”

If you want to sign up for alerts in your city, just visit readyhamptonroads.org. 

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