The FCC and FEMA have been working on a system to notify the general public of imminent threats to life or property in your area. This system is ready to go now and you will begin to receive the messages on your cell phone as early as this month. The message is called a WEA, or Wireless Emergency Alert. Tornado warnings, flash flood warnings and several other high-end warnings will go direct to wireless users in an affected county automatically if their device is compatible.

The messages will look like a text message and will not only alert you, but will also tell you what action you should take to protect your life or property. Alerts will be sent for the following:

  • Extreme weather warnings
  • Local emergencies requiring evacuation or immediate action
  • AMBER Alerts
  • Presidential Alerts during a national emergency

The weather warnings will include tornado and flash flood warnings, but not severe thunderstorm warnings. What I think is really cool is that if you travel into an area that has already had an alert issued, your device will alert you as soon as you enter that area. Additionally, your device will only alert you for warnings in the county you are currently in, so you won’t get a bunch of warnings for areas that aren’t close to you.

You do not have to sign up for this free service. You are automatically going to receive them, as long as you have a device that can receive the message. You WILL be able to opt-out of these alerts — except for any Presidential alerts. To opt-out you will need to contact your wireless network for instructions on how to do so.

The message will be no longer than 90 characters and will alert you by a special tone and vibration, both repeated twice. The message will NOT count against your wireless plan or texting limits.

Check out the National Weather Service for a list of FAQs