By Nikki Garrett Metzger
(Victor Valley) – As technology changes and people disconnect or “cut the cord” from their TVs and their radios, important emergency messages may not be reaching the people who need it the most.
The government has been working with major wireless carriers to create a new system that will allow mobile device owners to receive free alerts when warnings have been issued for their area.
The Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) service will send your mobile device free text messages when a warning has been placed on the area you are in. But unlike most alert services, no sign up is needed.
The WEA service is geographically based, but doesn’t use phone numbers. It uses the cell towers in the area where the warnings are issued to broadcast a message to all capable phones in that area. So, for example if you live here in the High Desert but are traveling somewhere else, like Oregon or Washington and a flash flood alert was issued for the area you are in, you would receive a message about a flash flood warning.
The types of warnings that will be texted directly to your phone include severe weather alerts, national emergencies, and Amber Alerts.
You will be able to opt out of weather and Amber alerts, but not Presidential alerts.
“WEA is not a replacement for other warning systems,” said Alex Tardy with the National Weather Service in San Diego. “It is part of the nation’s larger warning network and is only intended to act as a bell ringer. So people should continue to rely on traditional sources for emergency information such as TV/radio, NWR (NOAA weather radio from National Weather Service), and community warning systems.”
The system will only alert compatible phones. This means that your current phone may not be able to receive the alerts when they go live. Carriers are only required to alert down the county level (although Sprint and ATT are working to go sub-county). Each carrier is at different stages of being able to disseminate these messages. The iPhone will need a new OS upgrade to be capable.
The FCC is working to launch this next month.