Starting promptly at 1:18pm (central time) time today, Iowans and all Americans across the country will be interrupted by an 'urgent notification' on their cellphones. This is the 'Presidential Alert,' the message will read. 'THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed.'

As it’s pumped out by cell towers nationwide over a 30 minute period, the message is expected to reach some 225 million Americans in an unprecedented federal exercise.

Many cell users may be familiar with alerts they receive as warnings about flash flooding or missing children. But those emergency weather alerts and AMBER alerts can only be sent out to a regional or even Iowa-wide audience and not nationally and all at once.

This afternoons test of the Wireless Emergency Alerts system will mark the first time that emergency management officials will have used the nationwide alerting capabilities reserved for the office of the president. Hopefully he doesn't say 'You're fired!'

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