With the start of the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season this month, C Spire is reminding consumers that they can receive free, location-based notifications on capable mobile phones under a national public safety warning system designed to alert consumers during emergencies.
Wireless carriers voluntarily broadcast the Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) over their networks in cooperation with state and federal authorities under the Commercial Mobile Alert System (CMAS) program, but only after extensive testing and certification by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
C Spire received final FEMA approval in 2014 to begin broadcasting the text-like, 90-character messages designed to warn consumers about severe weather threats, missing persons or Presidential alerts during national emergencies. Customers can opt out of weather and missing person alerts by adjusting their device notification settings, but Presidential alerts are mandatory.
C Spire CTO Carla Lewis says the alerts play an important role in keeping Mississippi residents updated about flooding threats. Without the alerts, C Spire and emergency response officials say injuries and deaths could result and damage totals could be much higher.
“Alerts received at the right time can help keep you safe during an emergency like a flood,” Lewis said. “With WEA, warnings are sent to your phone when you’re in harm’s way without the need to download an app or subscribe to a service. We know that these messages delivered over our network help save lives.”
The alerts helped keep Mississippi residents updated about weather threats when a rash of severe weather earlier this year caused record rainfall, 15 tornadoes, six deaths, damages to homes and businesses and widespread flash flooding. With multiple pending federal disaster declarations, first responders are bracing for the worst during the 2021 hurricane season.
The company currently offers more than 90 WEA-capable devices, including smartwatches and other connected devices, which are identified with a special logo both in stores and online. All smartphones manufactured and introduced after 2012 are WEA-capable.
Lewis said the WEA messages feature a special tone and vibration that is repeated twice so users can easily identify these types of emergency alerts. In many smartphone models, there is an audible warning.
Alerts are targeted to impacted geographic areas, some smaller than counties, where threats occur and Lewis said customers will receive the message if they travel into an area where an alert has been issued or if they are already within the area using a WEA-capable device.
The alerts are required under the Warning, Alert and Response Network (WARN) Act, a 2006 law that established a voluntary, national emergency alert system called for by President Bush in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 al-Qaeda terrorist attacks on the U.S. that killed 2,996 people, damaged the Pentagon and destroyed the World Trade Center in New York City.