1. What Are Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEAs)?

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Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEAs) are used to send concise, text-like messages to WEA-capable mobile devices during emergency situations.

2. Why is this important to me?

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Alerts received at the right time can save lives.

3. What types of alerts will I receive?

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  • Presidential Alerts: Issued during a national emergency
  • Imminent Threat Alerts: Issued for extreme weather and other threats to life or property in your area
  • AMBER Alerts: Issued for the abduction of a child in your area

4. Is my mobile device WEA-capable?

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Many of the major wireless providers carry WEA-capable devices. To confirm your device is capable of receiving the alerts and are available in your area, please check with your wireless provider.

5. What does a WEA message look like?

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A WEA looks like a short, text message accompanied by a special tone and vibration. The WEA message will show:
  • Who is sending the alert
  • What is happening
  • Who is affected
  • What action to take

6. What should I do when I receive a WEA message?

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Follow any action advised by the message. If needed, seek more details from local media or authorities.

7. What if I’m traveling? Will I receive a WEA message if I’m visiting an area where I don’t live?

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Yes. Wireless Emergency Alerts are geographically targeted. If you travel into a threat area after an alert is first sent, your WEA-capable device will receive the message when you enter the area.

8. Will I be charged for receiving WEA messages?

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No. This service is offered for free and will not count towards texting limits on your wireless plan.

9. Does WEA know where I am? Is it tracking me?

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No. WEAs are broadcast from area cell towers to mobile devices in the area. Every WEA-capable phone within range receives the message.

10. Will a WEA message interrupt my phone conversations?

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No. The alert will be delayed until you finish your call.

11. How often will I receive WEA messages?

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You may get very few WEA messages or you may receive frequent messages when conditions change during an emergency. The number of messages depends on the number of imminent threats to life or property in your area.

Alerting Authorities

1. How does my organization send Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEAs) to the public?

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IPAWS (Integrated Public Alert and Warning System) is the only way emergency managers can send Wireless Emergency Alerts.

Through a partnership between the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), FEMA, and commercial mobile service providers, alerting authorities are able to use IPAWS to send WEAs, even when cellular networks are overloaded and can no longer support person-to-person calls, texts, or emails. IPAWS is accessed through software that meets IPAWS system requirements.

2. How can I tell if we are setup to use IPAWS?

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First, check here to see if your organization has already been approved to use IPAWS in your area, or is currently going through the application process. If not, then follow the steps listed in Question #5 to begin the application process with FEMA.

3. What type of alerts can we send through IPAWS?

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  • Wireless Emergency Alert System (WEAs) Public Alerts
  • Emergency Alert System (EAS) Public Alerts
  • Commercial Mobile Alert System (CMAS) Public Alerts
  • National Weather Service All-Hazards Emergency Message Collection System (HazCollect)
  • Internal Private Alerts from IPAWS users to other IPAWS users

4. Will my organization be charged by wireless carriers for sending WEAs?

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No. Alerting Authorities will not be charged by wireless carriers for sending WEA messages.

5. How do we sign-up for IPAWS?

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STEP 1: Check to see if your organization is already setup to use IPAWS

Your organization may already be approved to use IPAWS. First, visit FEMA’s current list of approved alerting authorities and alerting authorities in process. Alerting authorities authorized to use IPAWS are designated as a Collaborative Operating Group (COG). Each COG administers individual member accounts through its software system. If your organization is already approved, you will need to determine the individual member accounts that have been assigned and add any additional ones.

STEP 2: Select IPAWS compatible software

Access to IPAWS is free; however, In order to send a message using IPAWS, your organization must procure its own IPAWS compatible software. A list of approved vendors is available on the IPAWS OPEN Developer List

STEP 3: Apply for a Memorandum of Agreement with FEMA

To request a COG, an MOA governing security system must be executed between the sponsoring organization and FEMA. Download the MOA application (PDF, 85 Kb) and follow the instructions provided on the application process.

STEP 4: Apply for public alerting permissions

The application for IPAWS Public Alerting Authority will be provided when you apply for a COG MOA with FEMA. It will include contact information for California's designated state reviewer. This must be signed by a state designated official prior to submission to FEMA.

STEP 5: Complete IPAWS web-based training

Applications must complete independent study course, IS-247 Integrated Public Alert and Warning System. This course is a prerequisite for full access to IPAWS OPEN. Once the public alerting application and web-based training is complete, specific alerting permissions will be implemented in IPAWS-OPEN. At that point the individual members specified by the COG will be able to send alerts and warnings in the geographically prescribed areas.