Wireless Emergency Alerts are Now Available in Our Area
Posted at 3:25 p.m.
The Washington, D.C., area, including Fairfax County, is one of the areas where a new Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) system is now active. This system provides federal, state and local officials with the ability to send textbased wireless emergency alerts (WEAs) to most mobile phone users in a specific location throughout the United States during an emergency.
You could possibly receive a WEA alert during an emergency. The National Weather Service in Sterling also has the capability to send weather-related messages and may broadcast a WEA message regionally.
There are three types of WEA warnings:
- Presidential Alerts: Issued by the president in the event of a nationwide emergency.
- Imminent Danger Alerts: Issued about civil danger, civil emergency message, evacuation, hazardous materials warning, local area emergency, radiological hazard warning,
shelter in place, etc.
- Amber Alerts: Issued about the disappearance of minors.
How WEA Works
If an alert is necessary, it will be written in 90 characters or less and then transmitted to cellular providers for dissemination. Because each message will be geo-tagged, it only will be sent to the people who are in the vicinity of the impacted area.* If you receive a WEA, you are within the geographical location being affected by a safety threat. You should review the information in the alert carefully and proceed as directed.
There may be instances where you are within the targeted geographic alert zone but your phone does not receive the alert. In these cases, your phone may have been receiving its signal from an adjacent area cell site that was not targeted. Most alerts will be re-broadcast several times to reach the maximum number of devices. Once a device has received the alert, it will not accept duplicate or identical alerts.
Is Your Phone Ready for Wireless Emergency Alerts?
If you have an older model phone, you may not receive the wireless emergency alerts (WEA). Check with your service provider to find out if your phone is WEA-capable. AT&T, Cricket, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon all have information about the new alert system on their websites. Search for WEA, wireless emergency alerts, CMAS or commercial mobile alert system to find your provider’s list of WEA-capable phones.
* Currently, if an “imminent danger” WEA message is sent by Fairfax County, it will be broadcast countywide.