- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Alerts are sent through local cell towers to mobile devices
By AMANDA HARRISONStaff writer
Local emergency notifications can now be sent to mobile devices beginning this month, without a need to register for the alerts.
Wireless Emergency Alerts is a wireless emergency alert system created by the Federal Communications Commission, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the wireless industry and the Wireless Association.
The three types of alerts include imminent alerts including man-made and natural disasters, Amber alerts and presidential alerts during a national emergency, according to the Wireless Association’s website.
There is no cost and no need to sign up for the service, according to the website.
The alerts will “automatically go directly to all compatible mobile devices that are in Calvert County at the time of the alert, regardless of where the device is registered,” a news release from the county states.
“WEAs are broadcast from area cell towers to mobile devices in the area,” according to a WEA fact sheet, and then “every WEA-capable phone within range receives the message, just like every TV shows the emergency weather alert if it is turned on.”
The device's location information is used for the delivery of the WEAs, according to the website, however, the device does not need to be GPS enabled to receive the message and wil not be tracked.
The website states that mobile users won’t be charged for receiving the “text-like” alerts, which will appear on a person’s mobile device similar to a text message even though it is not a text message.
The alerts use a different type of technology to deliver the alerts immediately and therefore aren’t subjected to potential delays on wireless networks, according to the website.
WEAs are a point-to-multipoint system, which means that alerts will be sent to those mobile devices within a targeted area.
Mobile users with compatible devices are automatically enrolled in the WEA service. If the device has a CTIA Wireless Emergency Alerts logo, then it’s WEA-capable. The website states that there are many WEA-capable devices available, but to confirm that a mobile device is WEA-capable, check with the service provider.
Currently, AT&T, Bluegrass Cellular, Cellcom, Sprint Nextel Corp., T-Mobile USA, U.S. Cellular and Verizon Wireless are participating in transmitting these alerts.
Alerts are initiated by the federal, state or local public safety agencies, the website states, and then they are aggregated by FEMA, which transmits the message to the wireless carriers that broadcast the message to subscribers in specified geographic zones.
WEA messages can only include 90 characters in a text-message format and are intended to “heighten awareness and encourage residents to monitor the media for further information,” the release states.
When the alerts are received, the device will emit a special tone and vibration twice, the release states.
This system was implemented in response to the WARN Act of 2006, which provides “a public communications system capable of alerting the public to emergency situations on a national, regional, or local basis,” the bill’s summary states.
This program is similar to the county’s existing CodeRED system that transmits emergency notification emails, text messages and telephone calls to local residents.
Mobile devices that aren’t WEA-capable can receive the CodeRED alerts. These alerts are also free, but registration is required.
Compared to the WEAs, CodeRED alerts do not have a character limit, according to the county’s news release.