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Wireless emergency alerts enabled on mobile phones

During the severe weather West Michigan experienced the evening of July 6-7, many people received a warning from their cell phone that they weren’t expecting.

According to the Michigan State Police, Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division (MSP/EMHSD), newer mobile phones are automatically enabled to receive Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA).

“Many people have been asking questions about Wireless Emergency Alerts,” said Capt. Chris A. Kelenske, Deputy State Director of Emergency Management and Homeland Security and commander of the MSP/EMHSD. “This is a life-saving technology that helps inform the public about a potential life-threatening situation. When these alerts are received at the right time, they can help direct you to safety during an emergency or disaster.”

Known as WEA for short, these alerts are emergency messages sent by authorized government alerting authorities—such as the National Weather Service and state and local emergency response officials—through a user’s mobile carrier. If an imminent threat does occur and an alert is sent, a WEA-capable mobile phone will emit a special emergency tone or vibration with a text-like instructional message.

There are three different kinds of alerts:

Imminent threats, such as extreme weather and other life-threating emergencies in your area

AMBER Alerts

Presidential Alerts during a national emergency

Mobile phone users are not charged for receiving these notifications and are automatically enrolled to receive them. Users may opt out of receiving imminent threat warnings and AMBER Alerts; however, they may not opt out from receiving Presidential Alerts.

For more information about WEA, go to www.ready.gov/alerts. To learn more about being prepared before, during and after an emergency or disaster, visit the MSP/EMHSD on Twitter at @MichEMHS or go to www.michigan.gov/beprepared.

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