Smartphones Set to Receive Weather Alerts

Beginning in July, some smartphone users will have the capability to receive weather alerts via text message. This system, developed by the U.S. government in conjunction with the industry trade group CTIA – The Wireless Association, sends a blanket warning to users of compatible smartphones in the area of imminent severe weather. This message is sent from cell towers local to the area, so the warnings will be for where the smartphone users are located, even if travelling, according to a www.usatoday.com article.

Users can opt out of the messages, usually through the settings menu on their phone, though officials with the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma, said that users will probably receive few such weather warnings. And even if they do, the text messages will be in 90 characters or less. The service is free to smartphone users with phones capable of this service; no signup required.

And while the system does not work with all smartphones, phone companies are looking to change that. Some are doing this through automatic software upgrades, but users can contact their phone service provider for more information on the program.

The weather alert system is part of a bigger network launched by FEMA in April of 2012. The FEMA system carries presidential alerts, which deal with national security matters, including terrorist threats; imminent-threats, such as the aforementioned weather alerts; and Amber Alerts, which deal with kidnapped children. The FEMA system allows for users to opt out of Amber Alerts and imminent threats, but not presidential alerts.

Currently, 28 state or local emergency management agencies located in a dozen states have authorization to send text alerts, with 83 other agencies trying to get certified. Different agencies have different ideas on how to use the system, but all deal with warning individuals about dangerous threats in their area. This includes information on what to do and where to evacuate if necessary.

For more information about FEMA’s Severe Weather Alert program, visit: http://www.usatoday.com/tech/news/story/2012-06-28/weather-alerts-smartphones/55898356/1