Your phone will tell you if there is an emergency, such as a tornado

WEA, or Wireless Emergency Alerts, are an automatic alert system utilizing your mobile phone. WEA is a nationwide text emergency alert system that warns citizens when emergencies or dangerous situations threaten. There is no sign-up process, it will automatically be sent to most cell phones.

NOTE: FEMA also has a free app available on most phones :

What the alert will sound like:


Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) are emergency messages sent by authorized government alerting authorities through your mobile carrier. Government partners include local and state public safety agencies, FEMA, the FCC, the Department of Homeland Security, and the National Weather Service. No signup is required! Alerts are sent automatically to WEA-capable phones during an emergency.

The alerts are broadcast to the geographic area affected by an emergency. This means that if an alert is sent to a zone in New York, WEA-capable mobile devices in that zone can receive the alert, even if they are roaming or visiting from another state. In other words, a customer visiting from Chicago would be able to receive alerts in New York so long as the person has a WEA-enabled mobile device in the alert zone.

Consumers do not need to sign up for this service. WEA allows government officials to send emergency alerts to all subscribers with WEA-capable devices if their wireless carrier participates in the program.

The following situations will trigger a WEA

  • Extreme Weather and Hydrologic Warnings

* Tsunami Warnings(see Fact Sheet)

* Tornado and Flash Flood Warnings

* Hurricane, Typhoon, Storm Surge, and Extreme Wind Warnings

* Dust Storm

* Snow Squall Warnings

  • Local emergencies requiring evacuation or immediate action, such as tornadoes

  • AMBER Alerts

  • Blue Alerts

  • Presidential Alerts during a national emergency:

WEA will look like a text message. The WEA message will typically show the type and time of the alert, any action you should take, and the agency issuing the alert.

WEA messages include a special tone and vibration, both repeated twice.

For information about which mobile devices are WEA-capable and carrier participation, please visit: or contact your wireless carrier.

If you travel into a threat area after an alert is first sent, your WEA-capable device will receive the message when you enter the area.

WEA is separate from any local emergency-management notification service that you must sign up for. The WEA system will work in tandem with those systems, but WEA alerts will be sent regardless of whether a community has local alert system and messaging service.

This service is offered for free by wireless carriers. WEA messages will not count towards texting limits on your wireless plan.

WEA uses radio technology to broadcast the alert from cell towers to mobile devices in the area of the threat. Therefore, WEA doesn’t know exactly who is tuned in

You may receive frequent WEA messages during an emergency. Message frequency depends on the number of imminent threats to life or property in your area.

WEA messages and tones will be delivered to phones regardless of network congestion.

For those without mobile devices or the few mobile devices without WEA capabilities, other sources include NOAA Weather Radio, news media coverage, the Emergency Alert System on radio and TV broadcasts, desktop applications, mobile applications, and other alerting methods offered by local and state public safety agencies.

NOAA Weather Radio

NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards (NWR) is a nationwide network of radio stations broadcasting continuous weather information from the nearest National Weather Service office.

NWR broadcasts official warnings, watches, forecasts and other hazard information 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It also broadcasts alerts of non-weather emergencies such as national security, natural, environmental, and public safety through the Emergency Alert System.

WEA alerts are more geographically precise than ever before. When the WEA program launched, participating wireless providers were generally required to send the alerts to a geographic area no larger than the county or counties affected by the emergency situation. Then, beginning in November 2017, participating wireless providers were required to transmit alerts to a geographic area that best approximated the area affected by the emergency situation, even if it was smaller than a county. Now, beginning in December 2019, participating wireless providers must improve geotargeting of alerts even further. Specifically, providers must deliver the alerts to the area specified by the alert originator with no more than a 1/10 of a mile overshoot.

The NWS pushes our suite of warnings, advisories, and watches to a national collection point called theIntegrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS)The NWS specially marks our most critical NWS alerts for WEA distribution, so that when they reach IPAWS, they are pushed to commercial wireless carriers who broadcast the alert from cell towers in the threat area to your cell phone. IPAWS also serves as collection point for non-weather alerts, such as civil and child abduction emergency messages which are issued by other emergency authorities. Once an alert is in IPAWS, the alert may be made available through a variety of channels for further distribution, such as broadcast over television/radio stations, sirens, display on highway signs, desktop and mobile alert software application, and the Wireless Emergency Alert system


If your alerts are turned off or your phone alerts are turned off altogether, you will not receive the updates.

Here are general directions on checking your settings: Check your user manual for more info.

On iOS, here's how to make sure you receive emergency alerts during severe weather:

-Tap to Settings > Notifications

-Scroll to the very bottom, confirm that Emergency Alerts are turned on

-Make sure your ring/silent switch is not on silent.

NOTE:Your phone may receive alerts if Do Not Disturb is turned on, but if the Ring/Silent switch turns off audible alerts on your iPhone, you will not hear the alerts.

On Android:

-Tap to Settings  > Apps & Notifications > Emergency Alerts (The location differs depending on your version of Android. You can also try searching for "emergency" or "cell broadcasts," according to Android Central.)

-Confirm that alerts are turned on

NOTE: On Android, alerts should still be audible if the appropriate alerts are turned on, even if your phone is on silent.

For both operating systems, it seems that individual mobile carriers have options for what alerts will break through user silence settings, so your mileage may vary.



© 2020 ConnectLocal