Many cell phone users in Iowa received a rude awakening early this (Wednesday) morning. The first official Wireless Emergency Alert was issued in our area, warning residents about a Blizzard Warning….that goes into effect at 6-p.m. Customers of Verizon Wireless may have heard three short blasts at around 4-a.m., representing the Emergency Alert System. Some customers of U-S Cellular in the area report they received neither the alert tones nor text message informing them about the alert.
You may recall we told you back in June, that officials with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced the agency was providing additional tools for federal, state, local officials and others, to alert and warn the public about severe weather.
The Commercial Mobile Alert System, or CMAS, is being used to deliver Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) to wireless carriers for distribution to the public. That means your cell phone will receive messages on its screen, similar to a text message, showing the type and time of the alert, along with what type of action will be taken. The alerts will NOT take the place of locations where CODE RED alert systems are in-place, as those systems also handle a wide variety of local emergency situations.
The message will be no more than 90 characters, and will have a unique tone and vibration, indicating a WEA has been received. If an alert is received by your cell phone, you are advised to follow the instructions and seek additional information from local radio, television, NOAA Weather Radio and other official sources for emergency information.
The alerts will be broadcast by cell towers. Any cell phone within range of those specific towers will immediately pick up the signal, provided they are capable of receiving the alerts. The availability of WEA alerts is dependent on the network status of the wireless carriers and handset availability, since not all cell phones receive WEA’s. Check with your cellular carrier to see if WEA alerts are available in your area.
FEMA says as with all new cellular services, it will take time for upgrades in infrastructure, coverage and handset technology, to allow WEA alerts to reach all cellular customers.