Wireless Emergency Alerts
What is this service?
Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) are emergency alert messages similar to text messages that are sent to WEA-enabled cell phones in the vicinity of an emergency that requires the public to take action. The alerts include a unique sound and vibration but can include no more than 90 characters.
WEA messages are sent by authorized emergency officials for local emergencies but can also be used by the President in times of national crisis.
Registration is not required to receive WEA, but those interested in receiving alerts should verify their cell phone settings are set to receive messages.
Wireless Emergency Alerts is one of the public alert and notificaiton systems that San Luis Obispo County officials can use to alert the public of an emergency. WEA is part of a nationwide system that not only allows local officials to provide emergency alerts, but also enables certain state and federal officials the ability to activate the system. Currently the system can be activated by; local emergency officials, the National Weather Service for severe weather events, the CHP for AMBER alerts, and the President of the United States for times of national crisis.
WEA provides alert messages to every cellphone within a designated area. Although the system is very effective at reaching large areas of the public in a rapid manner, there are some downsides. Currently, although messages can be directed to a certain geographic area of the county, the margin of error with these designations is quite large. The system is reliant on the cooperation and technology of cell providers. Although there are differences provider to provider, all cellphones within the coverage area of a designated cell tower will receive the alert. Based on which cell towers are in the affected area identified, cell phones may receive alerts far outside the designated area. Coupled with the 90 character limit, this system does have challenges in the effectiveness of its messaging.
Current legislation and improvements are in process nationwide to allow this system to be more effective in reaching those who need to take immediate action during an emergency.
The public is encouraged to register for Reverse 911, have a NOAA weather radio, and ensure they have a battery powered radio to ensure that emergency officials have multiple ways to provide emergency information.
You do not have to register your phone to receive WEA. Most major carriers and cell phones are currently able to receive WEA messages but you should verify in your cell phone settings that the option is turned on. If you are unsure if your mobile device is able to receive WEA, contact your mobile device carrier or visit CTIA The Wireless Association.
Although emergency officials urge you not to, consumers may opt out of receiving Imminent Threat and Amber Alert messages. Per the WARN Act of 1996, Congress said that no consumer could opt out of Presidential Alerts. The directions for opting out of Imminent Threat and Amber Alerts varies by service provider. Please see the below links to your service provider for specific instructions. However, be aware that if you opt out you will not receive emergency messages via WEA.
Sprint Nextel Corporation
For more information about Wireless Emergency Alerts, read the WEA Fact Sheet. More information on WEAs can also be found at www.Ready.gov/alerts.