Wireless emergency alerts can save a life
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) uses the Integrated Public Alert & Warning System (IPAWS) to provide emergency and life-saving information to the public through mobile phones using Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA). Your cellphone can keep you apprised of weather-related emergencies and immediate threats using WEAs as long as your phone’s test alert option is enabled.
Types of Wireless Emergency Alerts
- Presidential Alerts — special class of alerts only sent during a national emergency.
- Imminent Threat Alerts — include natural or human-made disasters, extreme weather, active shooters, and other threatening emergencies that are current or emerging.
- Public Safety Alerts — contain information about a threat that may not be imminent or after an imminent threat has occurred. Public safety alerts are less severe than imminent threat alerts.
- America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response (AMBER) Alerts — urgent bulletins issued in child-abduction cases. Rapid and effective public alerts play a crucial role in returning a missing child safely.
- Opt-in Test Messages — assess the capability of state and local officials to send their WEAs. The message will state that this is a TEST.
Wireless Emergency Alert Tips
- Follow the action advised by the alert. The message will show the type and time of the alert, any action you should take, and the agency issuing the alert. Messages will be 360 characters or less.
- WEAs have a unique tone and vibration, both repeated twice. WEA messages are free and will not count toward texting limits on your wireless plan.
- Wireless providers are selling devices with WEA capability included. To find out if your phone can receive WEA alerts, contact your wireless provider. All major providers participate in WEA voluntarily.
- If you are on a phone call when a WEA is sent in your area, the message will be delayed until you finish your call.
WEAs do not track your location. They are broadcast from area cell towers to cellphones within the defined geographic location.
WEAs are not affected by network congestion.
Get Alerts While Traveling
- WEAs are based on location. You will receive a WEA message, even if you are:
In an area where you don’t live.
- Outside area where your phone is registered.
- If you travel into an area after a WEA was sent your WEA-capable device will receive the message, if the alert is still active.
Not Receiving an Alert
If someone near you received a WEA and you don’t, it may be due to poor cell reception, or because when on a call, some cellphones will not show an alert — this varies by phone.
Not receiving an alert may also be because your cellphone is:
- Set to “off” or “airplane mode.”
- Not connected to a cell site broadcasting the alert.
- Connected to a cell site that is not broadcasting the alert, undergoing maintenance or is out-of-service.
- The device is opted out of receiving alerts. The location of the alerts opt-in/opt-out menu typically is in the notification settings menu.
- If your cellphone continues to receive the same WEA over and over it is likely an issue with the device. Powering off the device and turning it back on may help.
Information provided by FEMA.gov, an official website of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. For more information on alerts, visit ready.gov/alerts.