What Are These “Emergency Alerts” and Why Are They On My Phone?

July 5, 2013

It’s late, you’re tired, you’ve turned off Conan and are just about to close your eyes for the night when Brrrnnng! your phone gets a message.

No, it’s not the office calling back for one last agenda item. It’s a message alerting you to a tornado that has just been spotted 20 minutes outside of your town.

But what are these alerts, and why are you suddenly receiving them?
These spontaneous, yet beneficial, alerts are referred to as Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEAs) and are a result of a partnership between CTIA-The Wireless Association, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the wireless industry to provide Americans a reliable emergency alert system available on something that 91% of the adult population owns: a mobile device.

The WEA system sends concise, text-like messages to users’ WEA-capable mobile devices within a targeted area. Mobile users are not charged for receiving these text-like alerts and will automatically 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.

• AMBER Alerts – Alerts that meet the U.S. Department of Justice's criteria to help law enforcement search for and locate an abducted child.

WEAs use a different kind of technology to ensure they are delivered immediately and are not subjected to potential congestion on wireless networks. That means if you’re in Los Angeles and an earthquake occurred in that area, you would receive an “Imminent Threat Alert” on your device right away and without delay.

Verizon Wireless already provides a variety of WEA enabled devices, and many newer phones will be able to transmit the alerts. To receive these alerts, you might only need to upgrade your device’s software rather than buy a new phone. To confirm whether or not WEAs are available in your area, visit a Verizon Wireless retail location.

In addition to providing customers with this free Wireless Emergency Alert system, Verizon Wireless also recommends a few additional tips to consider to make sure you’re well prepared before you may see an “Imminent Threat Alert” appear on your device:

• Develop a family emergency plan that includes what to do, who to call, where to go and what supplies to take with you if your family must evacuate.

• Keep phones, tablets, laptops, batteries, chargers and other equipment in dry, accessible locations like re-sealable plastic bags. And, have car chargers available to charge devices while on the road.

• Take photos/videos of personal possessions for insurance purposes and save them to an online file storage site such as Verizon Cloud in case of computer/wireless damage.

• When communicating with loved ones during an emergency situation, opt for brief text messages rather than voice calls. Text messages are likely to get through quicker in a crisis.

• Verizon Wireless engages in year-round preparation so customers can stay in touch with family and friends in the event of a natural disaster. There are a variety of additional tips that can help you prepare for and stay connected in the event of an emergency. Visit http://news.verizonwireless.com/Emergency/Consumer_Tips.html to learn more.

Andrea Meyer is public relations manager for Verizon's Illinois/Wisconsin Region. You can follow her on Twitter at @VZWAndrea for more information about wireless trends and news.

Community Watch

» Anodyne Coffee plans to open location in Wauwatosa Village Updated:  7/29

» Initial Reaction Podcast: Menomonee Falls baseball virtuoso Ty Weber and Big Ten Media Day Updated:  7/29

» Wauwatosa West girls basketball coach Ashley Imperiale resigns 7/26

» Store owners, police weigh in on string of protests at Mayfair mall Updated:  7/26

» Tosa police will not release squad video of officer-involved shooting Updated:  7/25

» Wauwatosa school district files lawsuit against WIAA over conference realignment Updated:  7/25

» Protest over fatal shooting forces brief closure of Mayfair Mall 7/23

» Reports into fatal Wauwatosa police shooting delivered to DA 7/22

» Social media story on the storms rolling through Milwaukee area 7/21

» Business Spotlight: Cranky Al's has grown from desperation to a Wauwatosa institution Updated:  7/20

» Initial Reaction Podcast: Wisconsin Badgers football, WIFCA All-Star game 7/20

» Michaelis leads Wauwatosa East past rival West in regional 7/20

» Milwaukee County Chargers earn overtime win over Muskego 7/20

» Activists push DA for disclosure on police killing in Wauwatosa 7/19

» Video: How a Pokémon Go newbie experienced the craze playing in Wauwatosa Updated:  7/19

» Tosa police, firefighters celebrated during First Responders Fest 7/18

» Ray's Wine & Spirits in Tosa celebrates 55 years with public party 7/15

» Wauwatosa's Relay for Life event slated for July 22 7/14

» Wauwatosa Mayor Kathy Ehley receives award for business leadership 7/14

» Video: Mayfair Collection's Bartolotta restaurants billed as 'triple threat' Updated:  7/14

» Bus rapid transit route clears two hurdles 7/13

» A look at the French restaurant Cafe Grace, opening Tuesday in Wauwatosa 7/13

» Wauwatosa West baseball team drops four of last five games 7/12

» Wauwatosa East baseball team falls to Marquette in Greater Metro semifinals 7/12

» Coalition for Justice, Black Lives Matter protest in Milwaukee, Tosa Updated:  7/12

View All Posts Got a tip? Welcome rss

Best Summer Ever


We've made it easy for you to get out and go this summer. From hitting the trails for a bike ride or walk, to where to find beer gardens in the area, to the best places to swim in Waukesha County to the best summer drinks and summer reads, check out our 2016 summer guide.



Hidden Tosa


"Hidden Tosa" is a semi-regular feature where our Wauwatosa reporter explores the closed down and closed off parts of Wauwatosa.