Tornado? Terrorist Threat? Yikes! Alerts Now Come Directly To Your Smartphone

July 2013:  When seconds count, your smartphone can be your bat phone! Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEAs) let you know when life-threatening emergencies are happening in your area immediately so you can leap into action. 

Here’s a list of the types of alerts you can get and the smartphones that can receive them:

WEAs are part of a national Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) system that helps emergency management teams in your area get you three types of critical information fast:

  1. Alerts from the President of the United States
  2. Alerts involving imminent threats to life or property issued by the National Weather Service or other authorized emergency management agency
  3. Amber Alerts about missing children

The alerts sound and feel different so you won’t think it’s another text about tonight’s plans. Maybe you’ve gotten one and wondered, “What the heck was that?” The alerts are free, most major service providers participate (although some areas that typically get coverage may not be included), and you’re enrolled automatically even if you have a prepaid plan.

Since the alerts are geographically based, you’ll only receive alerts that may impact you personally. If you want, you can opt out of the last two types of alerts using your smartphone’s settings (different for each phone) but if the President sends an alert, you’re going to get it.

Provided your smartphone is WEA-enabled! Check your carrier’s list of enabled phones to find out (more carriers are listed on the CTIA-The Wireless Association website):

AT&T (choose “Are Wireless Emergency Alerts available on all devices?)”
Verizon Wireless
T-Mobile USA

You can also look for the WEA logo on the packaging for your device:

If your phone isn’t on the list, keep checking. Phones are added and updated frequently.

For more information about the program and how it got started, check out FEMA’s WEA web page. And if you’re concerned that the WEA system traces your phone, rest easy! It’s an outward-bound messaging program only.