The Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) system , also known as Commercial Mobile Alerts, allows federal agencies to aggregate alert messages from the President, the National Weather Service (NWS) and emergency operations centers . Alerts are then transmitted to wireless providers, who distribute them to their customers’ cell phones via Cell Broadcast, a technology similar to SMS text messaging.
The three types of alerts delivered using this system are:
- Alerts issued by the President
- Alerts of imminent threats to life and safety
- AMBER Alerts
FEMA joined the FCC and the cellular industry on the Personal Localized Alert Network (PLAN) formulating the technology that actually transmits alerts to cell phones.
As part of the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS), aggregators convert original messages to mobile phone format for distribution over networks to customers.
FEMA Wireless Emergency Alerts notify citizens about imminent threats via their mobile devices. Under normal conditions, text and phone messages from cell phones are impacted when there is congestion. That is why special technology is required for critical and lifesaving alerts to get through. Location-based messages are sent with information relevant to a cell phone subscriber’s locale, a service that’s free for emergency managers.
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To date Wireless Emergency Alerts have helped Colorado residents receive alerts about local flooding and hazardous road conditions. Minneapolis, MN residents helped facilitate a safe and speed recovery of an abducted child with these emergency mobile alerts. In East Windsor, CT, a WEA alert contributed to saving the lives of a camp counselor and her students . In Elmira, NY, an impending tornado threatened municipal residents, but a WEA alert helped them reach safety.