Getting Bombarded with Emergency Alerts on Your Phone? You Can Take Care Of That

By Nikki Garrett Metzger

(Victor Valley) – All around the office over the last several days you can hear that emergency alert tone; however, that noise is not coming from the radio – it is coming from various cell phones throughout the office.  They are the new weather alerts sent out by FEMA and the National Weather Service.  The alerts over the past few days have warned of flash flooding in San Bernardino County.

Beginning in late June 2012 the National Weather Service, FEMA, and many cell phone carriers partnered to distribute weather alert messages via cell phones.  The messages are predesigned short statements intended to warn the receiver of impending weather hazards and to encourage them to seek more information.

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. The messages are provided as a free service by cell phone carriers.

In addition to weather related hazards, the WEA messages will relay local emergency (i.e. evacuation notice), AMBER alerts, and Presidential Alerts.

While these alerts will appear on your mobile device similar to a text message, Wireless Emergency Alerts are not text messages. Instead, Wireless Emergency Alerts use a different kind of technology to ensure they are delivered immediately and are not subjected to potential congestion (or delays) on wireless networks.

You can opt-out of receiving WEA messages for imminent threats and AMBER alerts, but not for Presidential messages. To opt out, refer to instructions from your wireless carrier or visit http://www.ctia.org/wea for more information.

For example, if you have a Verizon Wireless phone: You may change settings within your device to opt out of Imminent Danger and Amber Alerts, but you may not opt out of Presidential Alerts.  You may find instructions for your specific device at the Verizon Wireless equipment site. To manage your preferences for specific alerts, go to the WEA application in your device and select and save your preferences. See your device manual for instructions.

“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 not all phones out there are able to receive the alerts. Carriers are only required to alert down to 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.

Visit http://www.ctia.org/wea for more information.

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