UPDATE: FEMA sends national presidential alert
JEFFERSON CITY- The first national "Presidential Alert" buzzed phones at 1:18 pm on Wednesday.
FEMA sent out the test through a Wireless Emergency Alert System.
The message said, "This is a test of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed." It went out to all working phones compatible with the WEA System.
Columbia resident Matthew Hall said he isn't sure whether people would effectively respond to such an alert in the case of a real emergency.
"I think it has the potential to be used in the right situations," he said. "It also depends if people actually heed any advice that they get. I think a lot of people will just see it and shrug it off."
But, Hall said a national emergency alert like this is long overdue.
"I kinda assumed they had this technology already. And, like, in the case in a absolute disaster, I assumed they already had the capability to do that," he said.
Tom Hurley, Boone County Emergency Management System deputy director, says a national system addresses some problems in current alert procedures.
"Oftentimes, these tests are not necessarily to gauge our success but to gauge where we need improvement," he said
Hurley said, in the event of a high level national attack, the message will appear for citizen safety.
"The closest event that I would say that would approach this type of alert would be the events of September 11, 2001, and, even then, I'm not sure if this would rise to that level. The information that comes from these alerts is not necessarily dynamic; people that receive the alert should then seek out additional information."
The WEA is similar to the Emergency Alert System already in place by the government which is broadcast through television.
"This is similar to what has been going on for decades on the television," said O'Connell. "But people don’t get their messages the way they used to. Everybody is now on a cellular phone device so we want to figure out how to get it out to those people."
Legislation about emergency alerts have been increasing since 9/11. The Warning, Alert and Response Network Act of 2006, said that cell phone users can't turn off presidential alerts.