The severe weather season is underway, and with it comes the likelihood that you will have to take steps to protect yourself and your family in case of a tornado, hurricane or other serious weather event.
Your smartphone can connect you to a source of emergency information that notifies you of severe weather events. It’s called the Wireless Emergency Alert, or WEA, and it is similar to the Emergency Alert System that broadcasters use.
The WEA is a cooperative effort between wireless service providers, the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. It delivers text message-like warnings to areas facing an imminent weather threat, such as tornadoes, floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, tsunamis and high winds.
A WEA-enabled phone will receive alerts based on your current location, rather than your home service area, if the phone is using a cell tower in the location you are in. These message often complement alerts issued by local agencies that are sent to your mobile device.
The WEA is also broadcast for child abduction incidents, called Amber Alerts, and for presidential bulletins regarding national emergencies. This service is offered for free by wireless carriers, and WEA messages do not count towards texting limits on your wireless plan.
WEA messages have been issued for the past two years. Most newer handsets, including smartphones, are capable of receiving these alerts. You may check with your service provider to see if your device is WEA capable.
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