FEMA Wireless Emergency Alerts
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the National Weather Service work with major cell phone service providers to send emergency alerts to individual mobile devices and cell phones. These emergency warning signals are FEMA Wireless Emergency Alerts or WEAs.
Wireless Emergency Alerts are complimentary messages from a national public safety system. The system allows customers with a WEA-capable wireless device to receive free, geographically targeted emergency alerts from authorized state or local agencies.
Types of FEMA Wireless Emergency Alerts
There are several different types of alert messages sent with this particular service:
- The first is an emergency warning that involves imminent threats to life or property. The National Weather Service or other authorized emergency management agency issues these notices. Examples of this type include Tornado warnings, hurricanes, and other weather catastrophes.
- The second type includes notices called Amber Alerts. Amber alerts involve missing children. Their purpose is to quickly distribute information to the general public that is related to the missing individual and others related to the case.
- Third are messages issued by the President of the United States.
What Do the Alerts Look Like?
Emergency alerts look similar to text messages. They are usually short (no more than 90 characters) and easy to read. The warning announcement will provide essential 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 notifications to FEMA
Important Notes about FEMA Wireless Emergency Alerts
- The messages will not interrupt your active voice call or data session (including background data transfers). The warning message will not be delivered if your device is used when an emergency alert is broadcast.
- If you receive an emergency notification 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 messages.
- The WEA system does not use the customer’s 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 urgent message.
- For basic information on FEMA and EMA registration procedures, visit the FEMA website.
- Not all devices are capable and, therefore, cannot receive these notifications.
If you have a WEA-capable mobile device, you are automatically enrolled to receive it. 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 warnings and severe weather warnings.
- Amber notices
You cannot opt out of Presidential messages.
To opt out of receiving other alerts, update your device’s specific settings. Please check your device manual for instructions.
Participating in FEMA Wireless Emergency Alerts Providers
- Bluegrass Cellular
- Sprint Nextel Corporation
- T-Mobile USA
- U.S. Cellular
Questions and Comments
If you have any questions about FEMA wireless emergency alerts, please post a comment below. See also how to send a text message to 911.