System to use cellphones in weather alerts

July 5, 2012 at 5:28 PM

WASHINGTON, July 5 (UPI) -- A new nationwide text emergency alert system, Wireless Emergency Alerts, will use cellphone text messages to warn of threatening weather, U.S. officials said.

Users with WEA-capable cellphones will get wireless alerts for the most dangerous types of weather from the National Weather Service once the new service is available in their area, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration reported.

The text message alert service is free and automatic, with no need to sign up or download an app, NOAA said.

The National Weather service will broadcast text warnings 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, NOAA said.

In an area where a weather warning has been issued, cellphones will pick up alerts broadcast by nearby cell towers, alerting users with a unique ring tone and vibration.

Cellphone owners can find out if their phone is WEA-capable and when the alert system will be available in their area by contacting their wireless carrier or visiting www.ctia.org, NOAA said.

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