As a Californian, you’re probably already aware of the various Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) that you can receive. They’re a way of informing you about disasters taking place and keeping you safe. How do they work, and what should you know about them? Here’s all the details, so you’re ready when you get an alert.
What is a Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) System?
Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) are text messages sent on behalf of federal, state and local emergency management agencies. Although they look like text messages, they won’t interfere with other calls or messages you’re taking part in on your phone. It also won’t affect your data usage. You also need to know that you won’t be charged for receiving these messages. You won’t even need to subscribe to get the messages, but you will need to check with your provider that you can receive these messages on your device.
The messages are sent through the Integrated Public Alert And Warning System (IPAWS) as part of the system that allows public officials to get in touch with the public. If you do get one of these, they want to get your attention. They have a unique sound and vibration, and will be repeat twice in order to ensure you see it.
Once you get the message, you’ll see it should be no longer than 90 characters. It will contain all the info you need on the event, such as what is happening, what action you should take, and who is sending the message to you.
Who Sends Wireless Emergency Alerts?
There are several different agencies that can send you a WEA if needed. The agency who contacts you will be different, depending on the state of the emergency. For example, agencies such as the National Center For Missing And Exploited Children, the National Weather Service, and state and local public officials can all send alerts as needed. Even the President of the United States can send an alert if needed.
When you get an alert from an agency, you’ll see that there are three categories they fall into: imminent danger, AMBER, and presidential alert.
What Can You Receive a Wireless Emergency Alerts About?
A Wireless Emergency Alert can warn you about several things. These include the following:
- Wildfires: This is something on the mind of very Californian right now, as wildfires have ravaged the state in the last year. If you’re in an area that’s at risk of wildfires, you may get an alert telling you to prepare in case of evacuation. A wildfire could be coming your way, you’ll also get the alert telling you to get out of the area as soon as possible. If there’s wildfires in your area, it’s vital you keep your phone on and charged for these alerts.
- Pandemics: These are another serious threat right now, so you’ll need to be sure you’re keeping safe when you’re out and about. If symptoms of a pandemic are seen in your area, then you’ll be alerted to this. Usually these alerts will tell you how to protect yourself, but you should check other sources too to ensure you’re doing the right thing.
- Power Outages: Power outages can happen for several reasons, so if one happens you may get an alert telling you what’s going on. For example, if there are wildfires, power may be cut in attempt to stop it from growing. The WEA can also tell you when the power will come back on.
- Severe Weather: There are lots of different weather states that will affect you, and even possibly put you in danger. You could get alerts about thunder storms, tornadoes, hurricanes, and extreme heat. These messages will allow you to get to safety before the extreme weather hits your area.
- Drought: This is another problem that’s prevalent in California, so you should look out for alerts. If there’s a drought you’ll be alerted of this fact, and asked not to use water unless necessary.
- Recovering from disaster: Once a disaster has passed, you may still receive alerts. These may pass on important information, such as where water is being handed out or when you can expect power to be back on. It’s important to keep an eye out for alerts, even when you think the danger has passed.
What to Do If You Get an Alert
There are so many things that you may get an alert for. What should you do if you get one? Firstly, read it as soon as possible. It’s not a good idea to leave it till later, as you may do with a regular text message. The information may be essential right that moment, such as an order to evacuate. Because of this, ensure that you check the message as soon as you get it.
Next, ensure you act on any directions given to you in the message. You might need to evacuate, turn off sprinklers, or move to higher ground in the case of floods. It’s important you follow this information, as it’s what’s going to keep you safe in the event of an emergency.
Finally, don’t panic. It’s easy to see a WEA on your phone and think the worst. However, these alerts design to keep you and everyone in your community safe. It’s simply the fastest way of reaching everyone in that community. If you’re worried, remember that if you pay attention to the alert and does as it asks, you’ll be ok.
Other Emergency Broadcast Systems
There are other emergency broadcast systems that you need to keep an eye on too. NOAA Weather Radio broadcasts 24/7 and will inform you of emergencies if they occur. It will also broadcast non weather related emergency info when needed.
The Wireless Emergency Alert system is in place to keep you informed, even if other means of communication aren’t available when you need help. Pay attention to alerts and do as they suggest, and you’ll be able to stay safe no matter what emergency is occurring.