Wireless Emergency Alerts

The Wireless Emergency Alert/Commercial Mobile Alert System is a program operated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency that distributes notifications from authorized federal, state, local and tribal government agencies that alert customers with capable devices of imminent threats to safety or an emergency situation. The messages are intended as a supplement to the existing Emergency Alert System, which broadcasts alerts over radio and television.

It was created as part of FEMA's Integrated Public Alert and Warning System to meet requirements for an alert system as specified by the Warning, Alert, and Response Network Act (Title VI of P.L. 109-347). FEMA worked with the Federal Communications Commission and the wireless industry to create a system that would be able to relay alerts through cell phones.

In addition to AMBER Alerts, the program includes National Weather Service, Presidential and Imminent Threat Alerts. If you own a capable mobile device, it will automatically receive these alerts when you are in the geographic area where an alert has been issued.

The alerts are sent on a special wireless carrier channel called Cell Broadcast, and are thus not affected by congestion on the voice or SMS text channels. The alerts are transmitted simultaneously to all mobile devices within range of the cellular carrier towers in the affected area. The system does not need to know your mobile number and it does not track your whereabouts; it simply "broadcasts" out the alert and any mobile devices that can hear the alert will display it to the user.

To determine if your mobile device is capable of receiving the alerts, visit www.ctia.org/wea and look for a link for your wireless service provider where you will find a list of mobile devices that will receive the alerts on their network. Also, be sure to ask for a capable device the next time you acquire a new mobile device.

Look for this symbol on the box: