Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA)

Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEAs) are short emergency messages from authorized federal, state, local, tribal and territorial public alerting authorities that can be broadcast from cell towers to any WEA‐enabled mobile device in a locally targeted area. Wireless providers primarily use cell broadcast technology for WEA message delivery. WEA is a partnership among FEMA, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and wireless providers to enhance public safety.

WEAs can be sent to your mobile device when you may be in harm’s way, without the need to download an app or subscribe to a service. WEAs are messages that warn the public of an impending natural or human-made disaster. The messages are short and can provide immediate, life-saving information. 

Types of Wireless Emergency Alerts

Presidential Alerts are a special class of alerts only sent during a national emergency.

Imminent Threat Alerts include natural or human-made disasters, extreme weather, active shooters, and other threatening emergencies that are current or emerging.

Public Safety Alerts contain information about a threat that may not be imminent or after an imminent threat has occurred.  Public safety alerts are less severe than imminent threat alerts.

America's Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response (AMBER) Alerts are urgent bulletins issued in child-abduction cases. Rapid and effective public alerts often play a crucial role in returning a missing child safely. An AMBER Alert instantly enables the entire community to assist in the search for and safe recovery of the child.

Opt-in Test Messages assess the capability of state and local officials to send their WEAs. The message will state that this is a TEST.

Wireless Emergency Alert Tips

  • Follow the action advised by the alert. The message will show the type and time of the alert, any action you should take, and the agency issuing the alert. The message will be no more than 360 characters. You can get more details from your local news.
  • WEAs have a unique tone and vibration, both repeated twice. WEA messages are free and will not count towards texting limits on your wireless plan.
  • Wireless providers are selling devices with WEA capability included. To find out if your phone can receive WEA alerts, contact your wireless provider. All the major providers participate in WEA on a voluntary basis.
  • If you are on a phone call when a WEA is sent in your area, the message will be delayed until you finish your call.
  • WEAs do not track your location. They are broadcast from area cell towers to mobile phones within the defined geographic location. Every WEA-capable phone within range receives the message.
  • WEAs are not affected by network congestion.

Receiving Alerts Away from Home

Wireless Emergency Alerts are not subscription based and there is no need to provide personal information to be able to receive a WEA. WEAs are based on location. You will receive a WEA message, even if you are:

  • In an area where you don't live
  • Outside the area where your phone is registered

If you travel into an area after a WEA was sent your WEA-capable device will receive the message, if the alert is still active.

Not Receiving an Alert

If someone near you received a WEA and you did not, it may be due to inadequate cell reception, or because when on a call, some mobile phones will not show an alert — this varies by make and model.

Not receiving an alert may also be because your mobile phone is:

  • Set to “off” or “airplane mode”
  • Not connected to a cell site broadcasting the alert
  • Connected to a cell site that is not broadcasting the alert, undergoing maintenance or is out-of-service
  • The device is opted out of receiving alerts. The location of the alerts opt-in/opt-out menu typically is in the notification settings menu.
  • If your mobile phone continues to receive the same WEA over and over it is most likely an issue with the device. Mobile phones should ignore subsequent re-broadcasts of a WEA but sometimes a device gets stuck in a loop repeatedly alerting for the same WEA. Powering off the device and turning it back on may help.

Information Source: https://www.fema.gov/emergency-managers/practitioners/integrated-public-alert-warning-system/public/wireless-emergency-alerts