Presidential Alert May Disrupt Theater Matinees on Broadway and Nationwide Wednesday

Presidential Alert May Disrupt Theater Matinees on Broadway and Nationwide Wednesday

By Jason Epperson

Imagine sitting in your hard-earned HAMILTON seats on Broadway — right around the time that King George is taunting “You’ll Be Back” — when every single cell phone owner in the audience gets an emergency alert from President Trump. That’s exactly what is likely to happen at the Richard Rodgers Theatre and venues across the country as the “Presidential Alert” system is tested at 2:18 EDT Wednesday.

Wednesdays are a popular matinee day for Broadway, big touring productions, and regional theaters nationwide, and the half-hour long test hits right about the time when most on the East Coast have just commenced. In the middle of the country, most shows miss the alert period, but there are indeed some that start at 1 pm or even noon, and early student matinees will be underway in the west. 

Since the message will be broadcast from cell towers, FEMA has said that people will likely get it at different times, and in order to receive the alert, a device must be powered on, in range of an active cell phone tower, and the owner’s wireless provider must be participating in the test (most are). Users will hear a tone like a tornado warning or Amber Alert accompanied by a text with the subject line of “Presidential Alert.” The text will read: “THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed.”

The only way to avoid the alert for most cell phone owners (95% of adult citizens) is to have the device powered off or in airplane mode. Silencing the ringer will not avoid the message, neither will opting out of government alerts. If the phone is turned back on during the half-hour alert period, the alert should still come through.

About author

Jason Epperson

Jason is a producer, manager, and designer with 17 years of experience in Chicago, New York, and in the touring market. In 2015, he founded Lotus Theatricals - the publisher of Performink, and an independent commercial producing company - with Abigail Trabue.