Tropical Storm Andrea was the first named storm of the 2013 hurricane season, and as it approached the East Coast, many Americans received important alert messages on their phone. They received the messages through a technology called Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA), which they may not have known they had on their phone.
Wireless Emergency Alerts are free messages sent by local public safety officials and the National Weather Service to warn about imminent danger, AMBER Alerts and national emergencies. The 90-character messages use one-way cell broadcast technology to send alerts even if other wireless voice and data services in the area are highly congested. The most important thing to know is: if you receive a wireless emergency alert on your cell phone, take the message seriously. Tune to local news media for further emergency details in your area, and take immediate action to keep safe.
Last month FEMA and the Ad Council released new national radio and television public service announcements (PSAs) to inform the American people that the technology could already be found right at their fingertips. The 30 second and 15 second videos in English and Spanish inform viewers about the unique sound and appearance of WEA alerts whenever they appear on your cell phone.
The videos tell the American people:
- The cell phones we carry with us daily can now potentially help to save lives and keep us safe.
- Many mobile devices receive WEAs from trusted sources to warn you about severe weather or other emergencies.
- You can identify WEAs by their unique sound and vibration.
- WEAs are sent in real time for people to take immediate action.
- You’ll be in the know where ever you go with WEAs.
Severe weather is not limited to the coastlines; it can occur at any time and in any place. Since June 2012, more than 3,500 WEAs have been issued by the National Weather Service for severe weather, including warnings that were sent to various areas during Hurricane Sandy last year.
All of our WEA PSAs can be seen at: Ready.gov/alerts.
About guest blogger Damon Penn
Damon Penn began serving as the Assistant Administrator of the National Continuity Programs (NCP) Directorate, Federal Emergency Management Agency, in September 2009. Penn has been instrumental in refining continuity at all levels of government. Penn also deployed to Haiti as the Department of Homeland Security task force leader for assistance to the survivors of the 2010 earthquake. He joined NCP after retiring from the U.S. Army as a Colonel. His military career included senior staff positions, leadership of an advisory team in Iraq, and brigade and battalion commands.