So late last year I had an epiphany. I’m barely ever watching standard TV anymore. But I live in a place that has a ton (compared to Brooklyn; my previous residence) of EAS announcements come over my TV screen. I’m on the Internet usually: Apple TV, Netflix, Hulu, etc. So I was trying to think up a way where the EAS can get to everyone whether they are watching standard broadcast TV or not watching TV at all. I posted this piece with my initial thoughts.
Today my wife sends me an email all about this new EAS just for cellphones called: Wireless Emergency Alerts that are due out this summer. You can learn more about WEAs through the CTIA web site. They control the wireless world apparently.
Now, they do say that older phones won’t get these new fangled WEAs and then there are the people on vibrate who are watching Netflix that will just die in the Tornado just for karma reasons probably.
Anyway, I think this is awesome. Here is the whole email that we received from our county Emergency Management Agency (@chathamema):
If you have a cell phone staying informed just got easier, no matter where you are.
Wireless companies, the Federal Communications Commission, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency are teaming up to provide residents a reliable wireless emergency alert system. Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) is a national emergency alert system that will allow agencies like the Chatham Emergency Management Agency, the National Weather Service, and even the President to send concise, text-like messages to users. These are not text messages and will not count towards texting limits on wireless plans.
1. What are WEA messages?
Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) are emergency messages sent by authorized government alerting authorities through your mobile carrier. Government partners include local and state public safety agencies, FEMA, the FCC, the Department of Homeland Security, and the National Weather Service.
2. Why is this important to me?
Alerts received at the right time can help keep you safe during an emergency. With WEA, alerts can be sent to your mobile device when you may be in harm’s way, without need to download an app or subscribe to a service.
3. What types of alerts will I receive?
- Extreme weather warnings
- Local emergencies requiring evacuation or immediate action
- AMBER Alerts
- Presidential Alerts during a national emergency
4. What does a WEA message look like?
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.
5. How will I know the difference between WEA and a regular text message?
WEA messages include a special tone and vibration, both repeated twice.
6. What types of WEA messages will the National Weather Service send?
- Tsunami Warnings
- Tornado and Flash Flood Warnings
- Hurricane, Typhoon, Dust Storm and Extreme Wind Warnings
- Blizzard and Ice Storm Warnings
7. What should I do when I receive a WEA message?
Follow any action advised by the emergency message. Seek more details from local media or authorities.
8. Will I receive a WEA message if I’m visiting an area where I don’t live, or outside the area where my phone is registered?
Yes, if you have a WEA-capable phone and your wireless carrier participates in the program. For information about which mobile devices are WEA-capable and carrier participation, please visit http://www.ctia.org/wea or contact your wireless carrier.
9. What if I travel into a threat area after a WEA message is already sent?
If you travel into a threat area after an alert is first sent, your WEA-capable device will receive the message when you enter the area.
10. When will I start receiving WEA messages?
It depends. WEA use is expected to begin in the June 2012, but many mobile devices, especially older ones, are not WEA-capable. When you buy a new mobile device, it probably will be able to receive WEA messages. For information about which mobile devices are WEA-capable, please visithttp://www.ctia.org/wea or contact your wireless carrier.
11. Is this the same service public safety agencies have asked the public to register for?
No, but they are complementary. Local agencies may have asked you to sign up to receive telephone calls, text messages, or emails. Those messages often include specific details about a critical event. WEA are very short messages designed to get your attention in an emergency situation. They may not give all the details you receive from other notification services.
12. Will I be charged for receiving WEA messages?No. This service is offered for free by wireless carriers. WEA messages will not count towards texting limits on your wireless plan.
13. Does WEA know where I am? Is it tracking me?
No. Just like emergency weather alerts you see on local TV, WEA are broadcast from area cell towers to mobile devices in the area. Every WEA-capable phone within range receives the message, just like every TV shows the emergency weather alert if it is turned on. TV stations, like WEA, don’t know exactly who is tuned in.
14. Will a WEA message interrupt my phone conversations?
No, the alert will be delayed until you finish your call.
15. How often will I receive WEA messages?
You may receive frequent WEA messages during an emergency. Message frequency depends on the number of imminent threats to life or property in your area.
16. If, during an emergency, I can’t make or receive calls or text messages due to network congestion, will I still be able to receive a WEA message?
Yes, WEA messages are not affected by network congestion.
17. What if I don’t want to receive WEA messages?
You can opt-out of receiving WEA messages for imminent threats and AMBER alerts, but not for Presidential messages. To opt out, please refer to instructions from your wireless carrier or visit http://www.ctia.org/wea for more information.
18. The NWS issues warnings for smaller areas – called polygons. Will my cell phone receive the tornado warning alert if my location is outside of this polygon?
Your cell phone will pick up the tornado warning alert since it was issued for a part of the county you are located in (only county code is used – all or nothing). The current (2012) software program isn’t capable of narrowing down the alert for just those cell phones located within the polygon warning.
19. How will I receive alerts if I don’t have a WEA-capable device?
WEA is one of many ways you can receive emergency notifications. Other sources include NOAA Weather Radio, news media coverage, the Emergency Alert System on radio and TV broadcasts, social media, and other alerting methods offered by local and state public safety agencies. Your best use of WEA is to immediately seek additional information about the imminent threat impacting your area.