Did you know that there is now a national program that is going push weather related safety warnings to your cell phone? The Commercial Mobile Alert System just started last week, although it has been in the works for some time. The Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA) partnered with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to build a wireless emergency alert system.
There are many state and local alert systems in place already that will deliver similar warnings; however, you have to actually sign up for those programs. The new Wireless Emergency Alert system is national and does not require any action on your part. If you possess a cell phone and cell carrier that supports the system (all do not), then you will receive the alerts. Don’t freak, you will not be charged for these texts. I personally think this is an amazing and yet “no brainer” leap in the right direction for our nation. We’ve all been forced to randomly miss what always works out to be the best part of our favorite television show for the traditional…”this is a test of the emergency broadcast system…” These new texts follow the same principle. Even better though, most folks I know keep their cell phones within arms reach at all times which makes them much more likely to receive these warnings. Also, though they will appear as text messages, they aren’t in fact actually “texts”. These use SMS-Cell Broadcast (SMS-CB) which allows them to be delivered immediately despite any congestion that might exist on cellular lines during an event. They are also location specific, so despite the fact that your phone might be out of Texas, if you are traveling to Georgia, you will receive GA alerts. They even arrive with a special ring tone to alert you that this is no regular message.
All told, there are three types of alerts that will be sent as a part of this program:
- Alerts issued by the President
- Alerts involving imminent threats to safety or life
- Amber Alerts
There are methods to opt out of these (why would anyone do that?!) except for those issued by the President.
New cell phones on the market that are out of the box capable are labeled with this logo:
Several sites have more information and they are all worth a glance. Check out these sites for the details:
- CTIA – http://www.ctia.org/consumer_info/safety/index.cfm/AID/12082 (here you can find links to cellphone provider specific information)
- FCC – http://www.fcc.gov/guides/commercial-mobile-alert-system-cmas (Frequently Asked Questions page)
- FEMA – http://www.fema.gov/emergency/ipaws/cmas.shtm (Frequently Asked Questions – I like this one the best!)