Nationwide Wireless Emergency Text Alert System Launching This Month

The federal government along with U.S. wireless providers will be rolling out a new Emergency Text Alert System this month. The service will be free and will provide geographically targeted wireless emergency alerts for life-threatening events such as: tornadoes, flash floods, hurricanes, typhoons, tsunamis, dust storms, extreme winds, blizzards and ice storms. The text alerts will be brief and will inform consumers to seek additional information or immediately seek shelter if necessary. You may have experienced such alerts via third party weather application or private services but this will be the first national service by the federal government and the wireless industry.

“Wireless carriers representing more than 97% of subscribers voluntarily agreed to develop and offer free, geographically targeted wireless emergency alerts,” said Amy Storey, spokeswoman for the CTIA— The Wireless Association. AT&T, Cellcom, Cricket, Sprint Nextel, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular and Verizon Wireless are participating.

Consumers won’t have to do or change anything to receive the alerts and can feel safe knowing they are a point-to-multipoint system — meaning you will be alerted whenever you are in an area experiencing an emergency. The new system will also include AMBER Alerts for missing children and Presidential Alerts for national emergencies. Although all consumers will be automatically enrolled into the nationwide system, anyone wishing to opt-out of specific alerts may do so — with the exception of Presidential Alerts.

While there are some concerns of false alarms causing unnecessary panic, I adhere to the old adage “better safe than sorry” and welcome the new alert system with open arms. So if you start receiving random text alerts warning you of a weather emergency, don’t simply disregard them — they could save your life.