The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the National Weather Service work with major cell phone service providers to provide emergency alerts to individual mobile devices and cell phones. These types of emergency alerts are known as Wireless Emergency Alerts, or WEA’s.
WEA’s are free messages that are provided as part of a national public safety system that allows customers with a WEA-capable wireless device to receive free, geographically-targeted emergency alerts from authorized state or local agencies.
There are three types of emergency alerts.
- The first is an emergency alert involving imminent threats to life or property issued by the National Weather Service or other authorized emergency management agency. Examples of this type include: Tornado warning, hurricane warning, and other weather alerts.
- The second type includes notices called Amber Alerts which involve missing children.
- Third are alerts issued by the President of the United States.
Emergency alerts look similar to a text message. The are usually short (no more than 90 characters) and easy to read. The emergency alert will provide basic information or instructions on safety or security issues.
The emergency alert will be accompanied by a unique attention signal (which could be very loud) and a vibration cadence that is helpful to people with hearing or vision-related disabilities.
You will receive notifications on your mobile device if:
- Your device is powered on and enabled
- You are in an area impacted area where this service is available
- There are authorized emergency agencies in your area sending alerts to FEMA
- The messages will not interrupt your active voice call or data session (including background data transfers). If your device is in use at the time an emergency alert is broadcast, the alert will not be delivered.
- If you receive an emergency alert on your device, check other sources such as radio, television, or the National Weather Service for additional information or instructions.
- The notifications are initiated by approved state or local Emergency Management Agencies (EMAs). These EMAs register directly with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to use WEA to broadcast alerts
- The WEA system does not use the customer cell phone number to transmit messages and does not use the GPS location of the device or cell towers. Instead, messages are broadcast based on a targeted geographical area determined by the Emergency Management Agency initiating the alert.
- For basic information on FEMA and EMA registration procedures, visit the FEMA website. http://www.fema.gov/alerting-authorities
- Not all devices are capable and therefore cannot receive these types of notifications
If you have a WEA capable mobile device, you are automatically enrolled to receive. Based on FEMA guidelines, you may opt out of the following types of alerts:
- Information involving imminent threats to life or property issued by the National Weather Service or other authorized emergency management agency. These include alerts such as tornado warning and severe weather alerts
- Amber notices
You cannot opt out of Presidential messages.
To opt out of receiving, update the specific settings for your device. Please check your device manual for instructions.