The CMAS system will allow the National Weather Service to soon begin issuing WEAs for the most dangerous weather through participating wireless carriers directly to cell phones. The alerts will be broadcast by cell towers much like an AM/FM radio station, and cell phones within range will immediately pick up the signal, provided they are capable of receiving these alerts. The availability of WEA alerts will be dependent on the network status of the wireless carriers and handset availability, since not all cell phones can receive WEAs. People should check with their cellular carriers to see if WEA alerts are available in their area.
"The wireless emergency alert capability provides an additional opportunity for the public to receive life-saving information needed to get out of harm's way when a threat exists," said Timothy Manning, FEMA deputy administrator for protection and national preparedness. "The public also has a critical role in their personal preparedness. There are a few simple steps that everyone can take to be prepared, like knowing which risks exist in your area and making a family emergency plan. Information and resources to help individuals and families prepare can be found at ready.gov."
WEAs will look like a text message, and will automatically appear on the mobile device screen showing the type and time of alert along with any action that should be taken. The message will be no more than 90 characters, and will have a unique tone and vibration, indicating a WEA has been received. If an alert is received, citizens should follow the instructions and seek additional information from radio, television, NOAA Weather Radio, and other official sources for emergency information. Citizens should only call 911 in a life threatening situation.
Only authorized federal, state, local, tribal or territorial officials can send WEA alerts to the public. As with all new cellular services, it will take time for upgrades in infrastructure, coverage, and handset technology to allow WEA alerts to reach all cellular customers.
FEMA urges individuals and businesses to take action to prepare themselves in advance of severe weather and hurricanes such as taking the pledge to prepare at www.ready.gov/pledge. This is the first step in making sure you and your family are ready for an emergency This includes filling out your family communications plan that you can email to yourself, assembling an emergency kit , keeping important papers and valuables in a safe place, and getting involved.
With the start of hurricanes season it is even more important to know your risk, take action, and be an example. While hurricanes often offer some warning that a threat is approaching, severe weather can occur at anytime and in any place, including high winds, inland flooding, severe storms and tornadoes.
For more on family preparedness, visit www.ready.gov/hurricanes for more planning information and safety tips.