This June, the wireless industry will team up with local and state public safety agencies, the FCC, FEMA, the Department of Homeland Security, and the National Weather Service to activate a nationwide Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) system.
A WEA is a text message, accompanied by a special tone and vibration, that will be pushed to mobile phones in the event of a tsunami, tornado, flash flood, hurricane, blizzard, ice storm, or other severe weather. A WEA will also be sent in the event of an AMBER alert or a Presidential alert during a national emergency. A WEA will attempt to show the type and time of the alert, any action you should take, and the issuing agency. And it will try to do all that in fewer characters than a tweet; no more than 90 characters.
Since 1997, the United States has relied on the television- and radio-based Emergency Alert System (which superseded the Emergency Broadcast System, which itself had superseded the CONELRAD System) to reach the public in an emergency. But now, with total cellular connections in the U.S. numbering more than 330 million and a wireless penetration rate of more than 100%, the mobile phone is the obvious channel to reach the nation.