Emergency Preparedness Essentials


Disaster Warning Systems and Signals

It is important to be informed during any disaster through the emergency broadcast systems in your area. You’ll need to know what natural or accidental disasters could happen in your area so you will know how you may be notified.

Each community may have its own way of getting everyone’s attention. It could be broadcast over the radio or TV. Special sirens can be used as well as telephone calls or even door-to-door announcements from emergency workers.

It is possible to even have an emergency alert come through a community’s own system so be sure to check with your local government to see what may be available to you in your own area.

Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA)

A Wireless Emergency Alert is coming out in order to make public safety even better. WEA alerts are similar to text-messages that will come through your phone during an emergency in your own area. The purpose of these alerts is to have a quick and free way to transmit critical information to a public that has become increasingly mobile.

Frequently Asked Questions
  • Why do I need to know?
    It is important to have the right warnings when you may be in harm’s way. WEA can send alerts at the right time and the right place in order to help you stay safe. WEA eliminates the need to download any apps or to subscribe to anything.

  • What is a WEA message?
    Wireless Emergency Alerts, or WEA, are text-like alerts sent to your mobile phone by authorized government.

  • What kinds of alerts will I get?
    You could receive alerts about extreme weather, AMBER alerts, Presidential alerts, and anything else that is determined to be a threatening emergency.

  • How will I know a WEA message when I see one?
    WEAs will look like a short (no more than 90 characters) text message. It will tell you what you need to do, who is issuing the WEA, and the type and time of alert.

  • Will the WEA be indistinguishable from a regular text message?
    WEAs will repeat twice a special vibration and tone.

  • Will the National Weather Service send any WEAs?
    WEAs will send alerts on tornado or flash flood warnings, tsunami warnings, typhoons, hurricanes, extreme wind warnings, dust storms, blizzards, lake effect snow storms, and ice storms.

  • What do I do when I get a WEA?
    You will need to follow any instruction given. Follow up with local authorities or media coverage for more details.

  • What happens if I get a WEA when I’m away from where I live or away from where my phone’s registered?
    If your phone is capable of a WEA and your wireless provider is a participant in the program, you will receive these messages even if you area away from your home or the place of registration. One hundred and forty-two carriers do participate (including all the largest carriers.)

  • What if a WEA is already sent when I come to a threat area?
    Your WEA-capable device will be able to receive the message when you enter the threat area even if it is after the alert was first sent.

  • When can I expect to begin receiving WEAs?
    This depends on your mobile device. You will need to check with your wireless carrier because though weather alerts were started in June, some of the older mobile devices are not WEA-capable. New ones you buy though probably are.

  • Is this what the public safety agencies have asked us to register for in the past?
    This is not the same but it is complementary. The local agencies might have asked you to sign up for the email, text, or telephone calls that provide you with specific details. WEAs are much shorter and are designed to get your attention in a critical situation. Because it will not have every detail, it is important to tune to the radio, TV, or a weather radio for further details.

  • How much will a WEA message charge me?
    WEA messages are a free service from your provider that will not be counted toward your texting limits.

  • How does WEA know where I am? Is it tracking me?
    WEAs are broadcast from a one-way area cell tower to your mobile much the same way that weather alerts come to a TV. If your WEA-capable phone is in range it will receive the message but WEA does not know who exactly is in the area.

  • Will I be interrupted by WEAs?
    If you are on a call, WEAs will be delayed until you are done.

  • Will I receive WEA messages often?
    You will get as many WEA messages as threatening circumstances are in your area.

  • Will I still receive WEAs if there is network congestion?
    WEA messages are not affected by network congestion like regular calls or text messages are.

  • Do I have to receive WEA messages?
    You have the choice to opt-out of both AMBERT alerts and imminent threats but not Presidential messages. If you wish to opt-out, change the settings on your phone.

  • Is there a way to receive alerts if I don’t have a WEA-capable device?
    WEA is not the only way to receive an alert during an emergency. Check to see if you’re mobile is WEA-capable and with your wireless provider to know if the WEA service is available to you in your area. If not, you can also receive alerts through NOAA Weather Radio, TV broadcasts, News broadcasts, the Emergency Alert System on TV or the radio, outdoor sirens, or any other alerting method provided by both your local and state public safety agencies.

Emergency Alert System (EAS)

The Emergency Alert System (EAS) is a public warning system supported by national and local broadcasters, wireless cable systems, cable television systems, direct broadcast satellite (DBS), and satellite digital audio radio service (SDARS) which provides time sensative communications from federal and local government to communities in the case of an emergency, AMBER alert or other disaster.

At the federal level the Emergency Alert System is implemented by the FCC, in combined effort with FEMA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Weather Service (NWS). The President of the United States is entirely responsible and has the sole discretion for deciding when EAS wil be activated. The FCC is primarily responsible for determining and prescribing the technical standards for the EAS.

Emergency Alert System (EAS) Resources

NOAA Weather Radio

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio (NWR) is a national network of radio stations that continuously broadcast weather information from local National Weather Service offices to specially configured NOAA weather radio receivers. If there is a NOAA Weather Radio office where you live, you can purchase a NOAA weather radio receiver to receive the most current national and local weather reports and alerts for your area.

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