Recently, you may have received an Amber Alert on your phone — and it was very loud, and very different from any other alerts that you may have experienced the past. These new types of alerts are called “Wireless Emergency Alerts”. These WEAs, according to FEMA, “are emergency messages sent by authorized government alerting authorities through your mobile carrier.
– Extreme weather, and other threatening emergencies in your area
– AMBER Alerts
– Presidential Alerts during a national emergency
WEA will look like a text message. The WEA message will show the type and time of the alert, any action you should take, and the agency issuing the alert. The message will be no more than 90 characters.
You do not have to register for these alerts, but they are complementary. This service is offered for free by wireless carriers. WEA messages will not count towards texting limits on your wireless plan.
You can opt-out of receiving WEA messages for imminent threats and/or AMBER alerts, but not for Presidential messages. To opt out, adjust settings on your mobile device. In the case of the iPhone, this is in Settings -> Notifications -> Government Alerts.
We strongly suggest that you keep as many of your alerts on as you can — they are relatively infrequent, and especially important in the case of emergencies. For example, the WEA program has in place for over a year, part of the 2006 WARN Act passed by Congress — how many alerts have you received?
For more information on Emergency Alerts, see http://www.fema.gov/wireless-emergency-alerts
FAQ from FEMA
WHAT ARE AMBER ALERTS?
AMBER Alerts are urgent bulletins issued in the most serious child-abduction cases. The America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response (AMBER) Alert Program is a voluntary partnership between law-enforcement agencies, broadcasters, transportation agencies, and the wireless industry.
WHAT ARE WIRELESS EMERGENCY ALERTS?
• Wireless Emergency Alerts, or WEAs, are free messages sent directly to your cell phone, warning you about severe weather, AMBER Alerts, and threats to safety in your area.
• WEAs are sent to you by your state and local public safety officials, the National Weather Service, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and the President.
• WEAs are a new technology and may already be on your wireless cell phone or other wireless device.
• WEA’s will be no more than 90 characters and will provide brief critical information about a threat in your location or an AMBER emergency
• The WEA notification is designed to get your attention and alert you with a unique sound and vibration. The unique sound and vibration is particularly helpful to people with hearing or vision-related disabilities.
• WEAs resemble a text message on your cell phone or other wireless device – but WEAs will not interrupt calls in progress.
• WEA messages allow alerts to be sent to cell phones in a geographically targeted affected area.
• WEAs are one-way alerts that are sent to any mobile device in range of the broadcasting cell tower which ensures that authorities cannot collect any data from an individual.
• WEAs are not affected by network congestion.
• Wireless customers will not be charged for the delivery of WEA messages and may contact their wireless mobile provider to opt-out of Imminent Threat or AMBER alerts, but may not opt-out of Presidential alerts.
UNIQUE SOUND AND VIBRATION.
• The unique sound and vibration (Common Audio Attention Signal and Vibration Pattern) you receive when a WEA message is broadcasts are prescribed in part 10 of the Code of Federal Regulations for use in Alert messaging only. The unique sound and vibration cadence are particularly helpful to people with hearing or vision-related disabilities.
• To find out more about how your mobile device is configured, contact your local carrier or device manufacture.
WILL I RECEIVE AMBER ALERTS ON MY CELL PHONE?
• WEA messages can save lives. Do not ignore these messages!
• WEAs only contain basic information so if you receive a WEA, seek additional information from the other sources, such as radio or TV.
• To find out if your Mobile device is capable of receiving WEA alerts, contact your cellular service or check out www.ctia.org/WEA
• All the major cell carriers are participating in WEA on a voluntary basis.
• As with all new cellular services, it will take time for upgrades in infrastructure, coverage, and handset technology to allow WEAs to reach all cellular customers.
• Wireless carriers are currently selling mobile devices with WEA capability included; however, not all handsets now on the market are capable of receiving WEAs.
• For more information on WEA Alerts, go to Ready.gov: http://www.ready.gov/warning-systems-signals
HOW DO AUTHORITIES REGISTER TO SEND WEA ALERTS?
• Government agencies at the federal, state, local, tribal or territorial level wishing to utilize WEA must execute a Memorandum of Agreement with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Integrated Public Warning and Alert System (IPAWS) program. Information about the application process can be found on the IPAWS website.
• Alerting Authorities will not be charged by wireless carriers for sending WEA messages.