Wireless Emergency Alerts
The Wireless Foundation and the membership of CTIA-The Wireless Association partnered with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) and the United States Department of Justice to deliver AMBER Alerts to wireless phones as SMS text messages. The distribution of AMBER Alerts to wireless devices is transitioning to Wireless Emergency Alerts
, a program developed by CTIA, the FCC, FEMA, and the wireless industry. The Wireless AMBER Alerts program ended operations at the end of 2012.
Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA), also known as Commercial Mobile Alert System (CMAS) or Personal Localized Alerting Network (PLAN), is a national emergency alert system to send concise, text-like messages to users’ WEA-capable mobile devices starting April 2012. Wireless providers representing nearly 97 percent of subscribers are participating in distributing wireless emergency alerts.
Mobile users will not be charged for receiving these text-like alerts and are automatically enrolled to receive them.
There are three different kinds of alerts:
- Presidential Alerts – Alerts issued by the President or a designee;
- Imminent Threat Alerts – Alerts that include severe man-made or natural disasters, such as hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, etc., where an imminent threat to life or property exists; and
- AMBER Alerts – Alerts that meet the U.S. Department of Justice’s criteria to help law enforcement search for and locate an abducted child.
While these alerts will appear on a person’s mobile device similar to a text message, Wireless Emergency Alerts are not text messages. Instead, Wireless Emergency Alerts use a different kind of technology to ensure they are delivered immediately and are not subjected to potential congestion (or delays) on wireless networks.
In addition, Wireless Emergency Alerts are a point-to-multipoint system, which means alert messages will be sent to those within a targeted area, unlike text messages which are not location aware. For example, if a person with a WEA-capable device from Washington, D.C. happened to be in southern California when an earthquake occurred in that area, they would receive an “Imminent Threat Alert” on their device.
There are a number of WEA-capable devices available today, and many of the new phones that are sold from participating carriers will be able to transmit these alerts. If your device has the CTIA Wireless Emergency Alerts logo, then it is WEA-capable. To receive these alerts, you might need to only upgrade your device’s software, rather than purchase a new one. To confirm Wireless Emergency Alerts are available in your area and your device is capable of receiving the alerts, please check with your carrier.