In these divided times, it's hard to find something that unites us all.
But all Americans (at least all of us with a cell phone, TV or radio) were brought together by a shared experience Wednesday: the test of a federal emergency alert system.
The alert came through at 11:18 a.m. Pacific time, reading "THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed." A second alert on television broadcast and radio went off two minutes later. The TV and radio alert has been tested for several years.
Wednesday's test was planned, and officials tried to spread the word in advance to avoid any possible confusion. Still, some were surprised when the message lit up their phone screens. Many comedians and activists jumped on the opportunity to crack a joke on social media. Others were annoyed, and decided to tweet about it. Others were annoyed people were tweeting about it... and tweeted about that.
It is the first test of the national wireless emergency system by FEMA. 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, and they say it can't be used for any sort of personal message from the president.