Severe and catastrophic weather conditions have unfortunately become the norm here in the U.S. But from Hurricane Katrina to the current Colorado wildfires, the tremendous loss and fear has opened doors to improving our emergency response and alert systems.
The National Weather Service, together with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), has now activated a Wireless Emergency Alerts system to send out warnings about tornadoes, hurricanes, typhoons, tsunamis, flash floods, extreme winds, blizzards and ice and dust storms to anyone who may be in the path of life-threatening weather.
Currently participating wireless providers Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile (News - Alert) are offering the services nationwide for later model Windows and Android devices. AT&T will only provide services for the New York City, Washington, D.C. and Portland, Oregon market at this time – with iPhone (News - Alert) support rumored to be expected in the fall.
The hope is that as the number of mobile phone users continues to grow, it will be possible to get the larger population informed about the latest weather conditions and out of harm’s way – even if they never listen to the radio or watch TV.
According to a recent Pew (News - Alert) Study, 88 percent of U.S. adults are cell owners, with 46 percent of those users having a smartphone.
No more than 90 character texts will be issued along with a special tone and vibrate feature to ensure recipients are aware of the critical message being sent. While these messages are completely free, there is also an option to opt out for mobile users.
This weather text alert system is the biggest piece in a larger alert network planned by the U.S. Government. The service also garners support from other agencies that will notify the public about any important warnings – like AMBER Alerts as well as President-issued notifications which cannot be opted out of.