Use of Wireless Alerts during Emergency Management Situations

In April 2012, the Emergency Management Agency began using mobile phones to send and receive Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) when lives are at stake during emergency situations. The first time someone receives a WEA message, it’s often times confusing, since most people aren’t even aware that WEA exists. To combat this and better educate the public, the Governor’s Office in California is currently raising awareness about WEA to various local agencies, as well as the public, via a 20 minute video titled “Why Not WEA?”

The purpose of the video is help people better understand WEA and promote its benefits. For example, if a city is threatened by a tornado, WEA has the capability to send messages from the National Weather Service to mobile devices, even if regular cell phone connections are no longer working.

WEA can also be used to disseminate emergency alerts in the face of other looming natural disasters, as well as Amber Alerts and Presidential Alerts that are sent our during times of a national emergency. This approach towards distributing critical information means more people are exposed to the messaging, thereby increasing public safety and awareness.

The Wireless Emergency Alerts system was launched in 2012 by the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to further enhance existing emergency alert systems. In fact, it’s a free service that complements messages sent out from local agencies. Since messages are sent out from area cell phone towers, if someone is visiting California, has a New York based number and an Amber Alert was issued, that person would still receive the notification, regardless of the fact that she doesn’t have a local phone number.

In addition to WEA, the Emergency Management Agency is also encouraging families to own at least one or two ‘disaster kits.’ Since emergency planning is the topic of choice in this month’s ‘Do 1 Thing’ nationwide initiative, officials are urging the public to prepare for emergency situations where they could be left without food, water, cash, transportation or telephone service for at least 72 hours. Disaster kits should include non-perishable foods that won’t require refrigeration, water or cooking, in addition to one gallon of water per person per day, cash and medical records.