Wireless Emergency Alerts service starting later this month, several carriers on boardAlex Wagner - Senior News Editor
The U.S. government and several wireless carriers are set to debut the Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) system this month. The free WEA service will deliver a special text message to users, who won't be required to sign up, alerting them to life-threatening events like tornadoes, hurricanes and blizzards. Alerts will be under 90 characters long and will be delivered based on location, meaning that travelers will be alerted to emergencies for wherever they're located at the time. The messages that'll be sent out will look like a text message but will use a different type of technology that's not affected by network congestion or delays. All four major U.S. carriers are on-board with the WEA, as are Cellcom, Cricket and U.S. Cellular.
The system will also be capable of sending out messages for AMBER Alerts (missing children) and Presidential Alerts. Users will be able to opt out of the weather and AMBER Alerts but not the Presidential alerts.
The WEA system sounds like a great way to alert mobile phone owners of dangerous weather, especially since many people carry a phone with them at all times but may not always have access to a radio or television to learn more about potentially life-threatening situations. It's also good to hear that the messages will be location-based so that people won't need to worry about updating their whereabouts and that the alerts will use a special technology that won't be affected by congestion, as networks can sometimes become overwhelmed during an emergency as many people try to contact loved ones at the same time.