Carriers and Federal Gov Kick Off Emergency Alerts
The Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) service, a joint effort between U.S. wireless network operators and the federal government, officially launches this month. The WEA will deliver text message warnings to cell phone users based on a number of potential hazards, including tornadoes, flash floods, hurricanes, tsunamis, dust storms, extreme winds, blizzards, and ice storms. The messages are delivered based on location, so even those who are traveling will receive alerts for where they are, not where they live, if there's danger. Carriers participating in the program include AT&T, Cellcom, Cricket, Sprint Nextel, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, and Verizon Wireless. "These text alerts will be very brief, under 90 characters," said National Weather Service spokeswoman Susan Buchanan in an interview with USA Today. They "are intended to prompt people to immediately seek additional information through the wide range of weather alert communications available to them, such as the Internet, television, radio or NOAA Weather Radio." The alerts are not sent via the traditional SMS pipes, and are instead delivered through a system that is not affected by congestion. The WAE can also deliver both AMBER Alerts and Presidential Alerts. Wireless subscribers can opt out of AMBER and Weather Alerts but not Presidential Alerts.