CHICAGO (CBS) — In the early hours of Friday morning, thousands of Chicagoans were awoken to a startling, loud sound of an emergency alert coming from their phones. It was not a text alert or a push message, but a Wireless Emergency Alert from the National Weather Service.
And for families with multiple phones, the sound became an alarm-clock-like symphony, coming at slightly different intervals over the course of about five minutes. Older phones are not capable of receiving the alerts but the service has been active since the middle of 2012. Some people I spoke to on Friday afternoon were annoyed that they received such an alert for a weather situation that would be considered somewhat dangerous but isolated, as opposed to a large severe storm with tornadoes. In one case, a person said he got the alert and it wasn’t raining at the time, nor was there a body of water nearby. A National Weather Service spokesman said the alerts are automated and are sent to any phone that is within range of cell towers and enabled to receive them. The Federal Emergency Management Administration and the Federal Communications Commission also participate in the service, meaning other alerts from the federal government are possible, too. The NWS has placed seven alerts on its list, ranking five of them as extreme and two severe. As it turns out, according the NWS, phone customers can elect to block the warnings, with the exception of presidential alerts. With a unique sound and vibration, Wireless Emergency Alerts keep you in the know, wherever you are. Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) are emergency messages sent by authorized government alerting authorities through your mobile carrier.

Yes, if you have a WEA-capable phone and your wireless carrier participates in the program. If you travel into a threat area after an alert is first sent, your WEA-capable device will receive the message when you enter the area. You can opt-out of receiving WEA messages for imminent threats and AMBER alerts, but not for Presidential messages. The Extreme alerts from the National Weather Service include warnings for tsunamis, tornadoes, extreme winds, hurricanes and typhoons.
FEMA has produced Public Service Announcements that demonstrate how wireless alerts save lives. The NWS pushes our suite of warnings, advisories, and watches to a national collection pointcalled the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) The NWS specially marks our most critical NWS alerts for WEA distribution, so that when they reach IPAWS, they are pushed to commercial wireless carriers who broadcast the alert from cell towers in the threat area to your cell phone.
The National Weather Service and wireless companies will send out extreme weather alerts to all smart phones in an affected area. SHEBOYGAN COUNTY, WI (WHBL) - We continue our series of stories for Wisconsin’s Tornado and Severe Weather Awareness Week with the expanding ways to warn people of dangerous weather. Our weather widget pulls your location based off of what your ISP returns for the city and state name.
There is only one, original, innovative text and e-mail alert service for all of Eastern PA and New Jersey. There was not an option, as far as I could tell, to customize which Government Alerts I wanted to block.
Government partners include local and state public safety agencies, FEMA, the FCC, the Department of Homeland Security, and the National Weather Service.

With WEA, alerts can be sent to your mobile device when you may be in harm's way, without need to download an app or subscribe to a service.
Seek more details from your favorite TV or radio station, NOAA Weather Radio, news website, desktop application, mobile application, or other trusted source of information. WEA use radio technology to broadcast the alert from cell towers to mobile devices in the area of the threat. The Severe alerts from National Weather Service include warnings for flash floods and dust storms.
Therefore, an alert can reach cell phones outside of the actual warning area depending on the broadcast range of the cell towers which broadcast the alert. Other sources include NOAA Weather Radio, news media coverage, the Emergency Alert System on radio and TV broadcasts, desktop applications, mobile applications, and other alerting methods offered by local and state public safety agencies. IPAWS also serves as collection point for non-weather alerts, such as civil and child abduction emergency messages which are issued by other emergency authorities. In addition to sirens, weather radios, and announcements on radio and TV stations, extreme weather alerts can be sent free to your cell phone. My Pocket Meteorologistâ„¢ sends personal weather forecasts and alerts tailored specifically for YOU straight to your phone or e-mail! America’s wireless industry is helping to build a Weather-Ready Nation through a nationwide text emergency alert system, called Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA), which will warn you when weather threatens.

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