UPDATE: Weather alerts on cellphones are useful tool

UPDATED Sunday, June 22, 2014 --- 6:10 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Emergency management officials say cellphone alerts have become a valuable tool to get severe weather alerts out to the public.

Wisconsin Emergency Management spokesman Tod Pritchard called the alerts a "game changer."

The Wisconsin State Journal reports (http://bit.ly/1yBXzF5 ) that several Wisconsinites got text message-like alerts on their phones during tornado warnings last week.

Pritchard says today's cellphones come with the emergency alert system built in.

But he says the system has limits.

Among them, messages can't be longer than 90 characters. So he says it's best to consider the alerts as a warning to take cover, then turn to a weather radio to get more information. And, cellphone models that are a few years old won't get the alerts -- but he expects that to change as phones are replaced.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press


Posted: Tuesday, May 27, 2014 --- 10:15pm

It may have startled you, a warning sign appearing on your cell phone, letting you know about a Flash Flood Warning Tuesday night in our area.

The Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) is a fairly new government system, run with the help of phone companies.

Most people have a cell phone these days and majority have a smartphone, so it only makes sense that one of the quickest ways to alert the public about an emergency is through a cell phone.

A WEA is like getting a text. The system went into effect in Dane County about a year and a half ago. Since then, it's only been used here a handful of times.

Wireless carriers push the alerts from cell towers to cell phones in an emergency zone. Even phones that are roaming, prepaid or folks visiting from another state will receive the alert.

You don't not need to sign up for this service, and best of all the alerts are free.

The alerts are only sent out for the following critical emergency situations:
1. Alerts issued by the president
2. Alerts involving imminent threats to safety or life
3. Amber alerts

Right now, newer phones and smartphones can receive the alerts, some older models may be able to. Check with your wireless carrier to check if your device is capable of receiving the alerts.

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