You may hear a bit of noise next Thursday afternoon after lunch, and you can thank FEMA and the FCC. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the two agencies are pushing out a "Presidential Alert" test to nearly every cellphone in the nation Sept. 20 to "assess the operational readiness of the infrastructure for distribution of a national message and determine whether technological improvements are needed," per a release on the FEMA website. The Wireless Emergency Alert—typically used to notify the public about such things as extreme weather or missing children—will sound an alarm on cellphones at 2:18pm EDT. Following at 2:20pm will be a test on radio and TV of the Emergency Alert System, which the president can use to communicate with the public in the event of a national emergency.
The header for the WEA trial text will read "Presidential Alert," along with the message: "This is a test of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed." It's the first time the government has conducted a nationwide test of the WEA, while it's the fourth time for the EAS. Wireless customers can't opt out of or turn off the impending alert, as it's mandatory for every wireless company participating in the WEA system (and most US wireless providers participate, per Atlas Obscura). If the test needs to be postponed, an alternate date is set for Oct. 3. (At least you know ahead of time it's not a zombie alert.)