Seal of Dane County County of Dane
Dane County Emergency Management

Smart Phone Emergency Alerts

Smart phone technology offers great opportunities and sources for emergency information. In addition to having access to a wide variety of apps and mobile messaging sources, most newer smart phone are equipped, out of the box, with the Wireless Emergency Alert feature.

A screenshot of an Emergency Alert

Wireless Emergency Alerts

The Wireless Emergency Alert system is a national emergency alert system established through partnership between the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and wireless industry carriers. The system is designed to allow emergency managers devices.

Mobile users will not be charged for receiving these alerts and are automatically enrolled to receive them. While these alerts will appear on a person’s mobile device similar to a text message, Wireless Emergency Alerts are not text messages. Wireless Emergency Alerts use a different technology to ensure they are delivered immediately and are not subject to congestion or delays on wireless networks. The message will appear similar to a popup message and will have a unique ring tone and vibration. For technical reasons, the message length is limited to a maximum of 90 characters.

In addition, Wireless Emergency Alerts are sent to all capable devices within a targeted geographic area. This assures that people in the area of the emergency will be rapidly alerted, while not alarming people that are not at risk.

There are three kinds of alerts that can be issued over the Wireless Emergency Alert system:

  1. National level alerts issued by the President
  2. Local imminent threat alerts that include severe man-made or natural disasters such as tornadoes or flash floods where an immediate threat to life or property exists
  3. AMBER alerts that meet the US Department of Justice’s criteria to help law enforcement search for and locate an abducted child

Additional Information from the National Weather Service can be found here.

For more information, visit the FCC or FEMA websites.

Check with your wireless carrier to confirm that your device is capable of receiving these alerts.