Wireless Emegency Alerts

By now, many of you have at least heard about a free Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) service that is rolling out. I just wanted to provide a bit more insight, as more information has become available, regarding this service. The WEA messages will be text-like alerts (no more than 90 characters) received by your mobile device during an emergency in your area. Click here for some basic information on the WEA service as well as a list of "weather" related warning messages that will be sent out.

Below are a few brief notes/updates on the WEA services to pass along:

* NWS is scheduled to start making most critical alerts available to WEA during the week of June 18
* Spint is fully deployed nationwide -- Verizon is "available nationally with very limited exceptions."
* Other mobile device carriers (i.e. AT&T) are rolling out "gradually"
* Sprint and AT&T are working to do sub-county level alerts
* iPhone 4 & 4S to be WEA capable with future software update

Please see "flyer" below for more information on the potential strengths (and limitations) of the WEA system.

For more information on the basis/development and FAQs of the Wireless Emergency Alert system, refer to this web page:


Integrated Public Alert and Warning System
Wireless Emergency Alerts

In weather emergencies, warnings can save lives. But traditional warning methods such as television, radio and outdoor sirens don’t always reach everyone.

Beginning in June 2012, emergency officials will have a new way to send warnings directly to phones in affected areas — Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEAs).

These short messages may look like a text message, but unlike texts, which are sent directly to your phone number, these warnings will be broadcast to all phones within range of designated cell towers through the Commercial Mobile Alert System (CMAS).

The alerts will tell you the type of warning, the affected area, and the duration. You’ll need to turn to other sources, such as television or your NOAA All-Hazards radio, to get more detailed information about what as happening and what actions you take.

Key Things to Know:

  • WEA messages may look like a text, or appear over your home screen.
  • The alert message will include a unique ringtone and vibration.
  • You will never be charged for WEA messages.
  • Emergency alerts will not interrupt any calls or downloads in progress. If you're on the phone when the alert goes out, you’ll get the message when you end your call.
  • You need not have GPS or any other special leatu res turned on to receive the alerts. The system does not identify your location or phone number — it simply sends the message to all devices in a given area.
  • It you're on the road and enter an area with an active warning, you’ll receive a WEA message as soon as you come within range of one of the affected cell towers.

Is your phone ready for WEA?

If you have an older model phone, you may not receive the Wireless Emergency Alerts. Some, such as newer-model iPhone and Android phones, will soon receive software updates that add this feature.

Check with your service provider to find out if your phone is WEA-capable. AT&T, Cricket, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon all have information about the new alert system on their websites. Search for WEA (Wireless Emergency Alerts) or CMAS ( Commercial Mobile Alert System) to find your provider's list ofWEA-capable phones.

Cell tower geography may lead to overwarning

Because cell towers broadcast in a radius, or circle, their coverage areas don't line up neatly with county boundaries. This means you may receive warnings for an adjacent county if you're within a few mules ofthe border.

The alerts are delivered directly from cell tower to cell phone through a one—way broadcast. The Commercial Mobile Alert System does not track or locate individual cell phones or phone numbers — it simply broadcasts to all phones within range. Unfortunately, in some cases, this may result in overwarning.

For example, if a tornado warning is issued for a particular county, it will go to all towers that serve that county.

Wireless Emergency Alerts: Three Types of Warnings

The Commercial Mobile Alert System (CMAS)can be used to broadcast three types of emergency alerts:

  • PRESIDENTIAL ALERTS — Issued by the U.S. President in the event ol a nationwide emergency.
  • THREAT ALERTS — Typically issued by the National Weather Service; in the Kansas City metropolitan area, these would include tornado, flash flooding, ice storm and blizzard warnings.
  • AMBER ALERTS — Issued by law enforcement to share infomnation about a child abduction.

No president has ever yet had to issue a presidential alert, but should one become necessary, cell phone providers are required to broadcast it to all WEA-capable phones.

Cell phone users may choose to opt out of imminent threat and/or AMBER alerts, but the procedures vary by carrier. Some providers will allow customers to opt out of one or the other, while others only allow you to opt out of both. Contact your wireless provider for more information.

The Alabama Emergency Management Agency strongly encourages you NOT to opt out of these potentially life-saving messages.

To learn more, contact your local emergency management office or wireless service provider Visit htpp://wwww.readyalabama.org/ more information on emergency preparedness.