Public Safety Building RM 2107
115 W Doty St
Madison, WI 53703-3202
Phone: (608) 266-4330
Fax: (608) 266-4500
TTY: Wisconsin Relay 711

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.

Wireless Emergency Alerts

WEA Wireless Emergency Alerts Capable Logo

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.

phone screen showing emergency alert

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 an 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 at:

http://www.weather.gov/wrn/

For more information, visit the FCC or FEMA websites at:

http://www.fcc.gov/guides/commercial-mobile-alert-system-cmas

http://www.fema.gov/commercial-mobile-alert-system

Check with your wireless carrier to confirm that your device is capable of receiving these alerts. Additional information on the wireless industry’s participation can be found at:

http://www.ctia.org/your-wireless-life/consumer-tips/wireless-emergency-alerts

Weather Warning Apps

There are a wide variety of weather and severe weather warning apps available. These apps are revolutionizing the way people get emergency and potentially life-saving information about severe weather. A weather warning app is as mobile as you are and will alert you to changing conditions no matter where you are (as long as you have a signal).

We can’t endorse specific products, and we also can’t possibly list them all. The best app for you will depend on your preferences, however, there are some basic features to look for:

  • Visual and full text display of National Weather Service alerts.
  • Severe weather alerts for your current location as well as saved favorites.
  • Real-time, animated radar.
  • Interactive maps with National Weather Service alerts.
  • Unique, user-selectable alert notification (tone, vibration, light).
  • User-selectable notifications based on severity.
  • Local forecast features.
  • Inexpensive or free.

Apps are available for iPhones, Android phones, and Blackberry devices. A search for “Weather Warning App” will give a you a good place to start.

redcross mobile app logo

The American Red Cross has an app available through the Apple App Store or Google Play that will provide safety tools, tips, and instructions in addition to delivering Tornado Warning notifications.