Wireless emergency alerts will now go directly to new or recently new cell phones

Across the country a new emergency alert system is being rolled out this week that will send wireless emergency alerts straight to your phone in the event of severe weather. Emergency crews say this new system will be game changer when it comes to warning the public about severe weather.

"These emergency alerts are going to go right to people in harm’s way right when they need it the most. And it's going to be right on a device that is literally right in most of all our pockets," says Tod Pritchard with Ready Wisconsin.

"It's a geographically specific warning that goes out to all cell phones regardless of carriers, regardless if you pay for text messaging or not. There's no charge for it. It won't interrupt phone calls or current downloads," says Tom Hurley, Eau Claire County Emergency Manager.

Say there's a tornado warning. An alert will go out to all impacted radio towers within the warning area. So if your phone is getting the signal from one of those towers, you will get the up to 90 character message with its own special ring and vibration.

"The screen will say what the event is. It will tell you the agency and what action you can take," says Pritchard.

The alert will show right up on the home page of your phone, but it doesn't have to be a smart phone like this. You'd also get the alerts if you have a flip phone as well. There's no app to download or anything to sign up for.

"If your phone is brand new to about six months old you probably have the technology," says Pritchard.

"Over the next four years the people prescribe this information say that 80% of cell phones users will have a phone that is able to receive these messages," says Hurley.

Right now warnings will be sent for tornado, blizzard, flash flood, and ice storm warnings but not severe thunderstorm warnings. Pritchard says within months local governments will be able to send other messages regarding non-weather related emergencies and amber alerts.

"They’re really trying to align themselves with today's technology and emerging technology, and this is a big step towards that," explains Hurley.

Click on the “MORE INFORMATION” link below. It has more information about the Wireless Emergency Alerts as well as a list of phone providers and phones that now have this technology.


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