Wireless Emergency Alerts help get word out - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

Wireless Emergency Alerts help get word out

Beginning in June 2012 a new type of emergency alert system launched across the country.  The federal government and wireless phone service providers have built a system - called Commercial Mobile Alert System (CMAS) or Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) - that will send a text-like message to your phone.  These messages will be sent directly to phones that are in an area impacted by a threat and to phones that enter into an impacted area.

Three different kinds of alerts will be sent through this system:

  • Presidential Alerts - Alerts issued by the President of the United States or someone with similar authority;
  • Imminent Threat Alerts - Alerts that include severe man-made or natural disasters, including tornados, hurricanes, tsunami or other even where there is an imminent threat to life or property; and
  • AMBER Alerts - Alerts to help law enforcement search for and locate an abducted child.

The alerts will be up to 90 characters in length and will contain information about the type of alert, the timing and duration of the alert, brief instructions on what should be done or what action should be taken, and they will identify which agency sent the alert.  They appear similar to a text message and will also cause the phone to make a sound and vibrate, however they are not an actual text message.  Wireless customers will not receive any charges for these alerts.

If you are currently subscribed for our mobile text message alerts, click here to learn more about the differences between the two services.

Will my phone receive these alerts?

Only phones with specific hardware will be able to receive the CMAS.  It is best to check with your wireless carrier to see if your particular phone is capable of receiving these messages.  A partial list of enabled phones is available here.

Wireless Emergency Alerts frequently asked questions (FAQ) from the CTIA Wireless Association:

Details of CMAS from the Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA):


For information about implementation in Wisconsin, click here. (Adobe Acrobat Reader required to view this PDF)

The WEA system is not a replacement for this station's free text alert services, which include a wider variety of options for the types of messages you receive, from various severe weather and school closing alerts to breaking news and mobile marketing clubs. This station's text alerts are also available for a wider range of devices, than are the alerts produced by the WEA system. Our policy is also to avoid issuing most alert types during the overnight hours, with the exception of tornado warnings and other imminently life-threatening situations.

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