News from City Hall
City Communications Office
City of Kansas City, Mo.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Aug. 23, 2013
Wireless emergency alert messages available on new cell phones
The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Integrated Public Alert and Warning System has authorized government agencies, including the City of Kansas City, Mo., to send warnings directly to newer cell phones.
“Emergency warnings provide critical notification to people who may be in harm’s way. However, traditional warning methods such as television, radio and tornado sirens may not reach everyone,” said the City’s Emergency Manager Gene Shepherd.
The new Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) system allows these warnings to be broadcast from cell towers to cell phones in an affected area through a one-way broadcast. The system does not track or locate individual cell phones or phone numbers. The warnings look similar to text messages and are free of charge.
The alerts have a unique ring tone and vibration with a short warning message that provides basic information, such as the type of warning, affected areas and duration. Warnings will not interrupt any phone calls or downloads in progress. If an individual is on the phone when the warning is issued, he or she will get the message after the phone call is completed.
The three warnings types included are imminent threats issued by local agencies, Amber Alerts issued by law enforcement agencies, and national emergencies issued by the president.
The National Weather Service is currently sending weather related warnings. The City’s Office of Emergency Management has been authorized to issue local warnings for imminent threats and its staff is working with a software provider to enable that capability.
“One of the great benefits of WEA is that you will get warnings if you are traveling and enter an area with an active warning,” Shepherd added.
Residents who receive a WEA warning are advised to seek additional information from local media or an all hazard radio to find out more about the situation and what actions they should take. Currently only a small percentage of cell phones are WEA-enabled. Software updates for newer phones that are not currently WEA capable may be available in the future. The wireless industry estimates that by 2014 nearly all new phones on the market will be WEA-capable.
Residents may check if their device is WEA-enabled by contacting their service provider.