Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA)

Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) Logo[4]

America’s wireless industry is helping to build a Weather-Ready Nation through a nationwide text emergency alert system, called Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA), which will warn you when weather threatens.

Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) are emergency messages sent by authorized government alerting authorities through your mobile carrier. Government partners include local and state public safety agencies, FEMA, the FCC, the Department of Homeland Security, and the National Weather Service.

The text alert service is free and automatic and there is no need to sign up or download an app. As long as your cell phone is WEA-capable, you’ll get wireless alerts for the most dangerous types of weather from NOAA’s National Weather Service no matter where you are, just as soon as the new service is available in your area.[1]

How Wireless Emergency Alerts Work

Sample WEA text message[5]

WEA warnings will be issued for weather emergencies that are most dangerous to life and property: tornadoes, flash floods, hurricanes, extreme wind, blizzards and ice storms, tsunamis, and dust storms. The message will look like a text, but it’s not a traditional text message most people are used to. This text message will automatically pop up on your cell phone’s screen; you won’t have to open it up to read it. The message will also include a special tone and vibration, both repeated twice. The message will typically show the type and time of the alert, any action you should take, and the agency issuing the alert. The message will be no more than 90 characters.

It is anticipated that most commercially available phones will be WEA-capable by the end of 2014. Devices capable of receiving WEAs will be marked with the Wireless Emergency Alert logo.[2]

What is the Commercial Mobile Alert System (CMAS)?

Various NWS WEA Messages[6]
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The Commercial Mobile Alert System (CMAS) is the system interface to the Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) service that wireless carriers. In 2008, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued a series of orders adopting requirements for a Commercial Mobile Alert System (CMAS), a system by which commercial mobile service (CMS) providers may transmit emergency alerts to their subscribers, if they choose to do so.

The Commercial Mobile Alert System (CMAS), interface to the Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) service, went live in April 2012. The NWS began delivering its Wireless Emergency Alerts on June 28, 2012.

The government plans to issue three types of alerts through this system: alerts issued by the President, alerts involving imminent threats to safety of life, and AMBER Alerts.[3]



  1. FEMA FAQs on Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) – http://www.fema.gov/wireless-emergency-alerts
  2. FEMA – Commercial Mobile Alert System (CMAS) – http://www.fema.gov/commercial-mobile-alert-system
    FCC – Commercial Mobile Alert System (CMAS) – http://www.fcc.gov/guides/commercial-mobile-alert-system-cmas
  3. CTIA – The Wireless Association® – For information about which mobile devices are WEA-capable and carrier participation, please visit: http://www.ctia.org/consumer_info/safety/index.cfm/AID/12082
  4. Image Source: http://www.nws.noaa.gov/com/weatherreadynation/wea.html#.UdbV2KxbOqH [Accessed May 18, 2013]
  5. Image Source: http://www.nws.noaa.gov/com/weatherreadynation/wea.html#.UdbV2KxbOqH [Accessed May 18, 2013]
  6. Image Source: http://www.nws.noaa.gov/com/weatherreadynation/img/art_imgs/wea_chart.png [Accessed May 18, 2013]