Emergency Text Alerts Coming Soon to a Smartphone Near You
Weather warnings, AMBER Alerts and national emergency informational messages will be coming soon to a smart phone near you.
With more smart phones in use than there are Americans, the United States Government and major wireless carriers have teamed up to keep you safe in severe weather or in the event of a national emergency.
The Wireless Emergency Alert service is a collaboration between the major wireless carriers (which covers 97 percent of people in the U.S.), the FCC, FEMA, Homeland Security and the National Weather Service, among others. It is also a free service for all mobile phone users in the country and there is no need to sign up. It's already on your phone. Alerts are based on your location and will be issued in the event of a potentially life threatening situation like a tornado or a flood, so even if you're traveling, you will still be able to stay safe. So, how will they know that I'm in the path of a tornado in Kansas, even though your phone is registered to Cold Spring? Well, as long as your phone is turned on, your signal will "ping" off of the nearest tower so they know where you are and if you're in the path of an oncoming tornado. But they're not just for tornadoes. Flash floods, hurricanes, dust storms, ice storms and blizzards are just a few of the many weather conditions that will be covered. The text messages will tell you what the situation is and direct you to take shelter and seek more information from the Internet, NOAA Weather Radio, tune in to local radio or local broadcast television. The messages will typically be less than 90 characters.
There are apps such as WeatherBug and The Weather Channel that will alert you to severe weather, but this is the first time the federal government has been involved and it's also the first time the alerts have been location based without the user having to manually switch their location.
AMBER Alerts and Presidential addresses have also never been available before on mobile devices, but the majority of the alerts will be weather related, however, National Weather Service Spokesman Chris Vaccaro says that this will be a great tool to aid in rapid notification, but is asking users to not rely solely on the mobile alerts to keep them informed. He urges everyone to invest in a battery operated NOAA Weather Radio. They're available for about $30. NOAA Weather Radios are portable and programmable and they will wake you up if severe weather strikes at night.
Mobile users will be able to opt out of weather alerts and AMBER Alerts, but not national emergencies. Want to know more? Click HERE.