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Twenty jurisdictions in the National Capital Region are conducting a simultaneous regional Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) system test on Thursday, April 5, 2018, between 10 – 11 a.m. Jurisdictions participating in the WEA test include: City of Alexandria, City of Bowie, City of College Park, City of Fairfax, City of Falls Church, City of Gaithersburg, City of Greenbelt, City of Takoma Park, City of Manassas, City of Manassas Park, City of Rockville, District of Columbia, Arlington County, Charles County, Fairfax County, Frederick County, Loudoun County, Montgomery County, Prince George's County and Prince William County.
WEA (Wireless Emergency Alerts) is apublic safety system allowing people who use cell phones and other mobiledevices to receive geographically-targeted, text-like messages about threats tosafety in their area.
The NationalCapital Region’s Emergency Managers Council of Governments is conducting thecountry’s first live, geo-targeting exercise of WEA of this magnitude -approximately 5.2 million residents and visitors will be in the test area. Eachjurisdiction is notifying public safety, law enforcement, private/publicsectors partners, public transit officials and the public.
“This is atest of the Prince George's County Emergency Alert System. No action required.”
WEA includesa special tone (some describe it as quite loud) and a vibration, both repeatedtwice. A text message also appears on the mobile device.
No, if aperson’s WEA-enabled cell phone or mobile device is located in the targetlocation, an alert will be received. A person does not sign up to receive a WEAalert.
Eachjurisdiction participating in the exercise will draw their geo-targeted map. Weare 100 percent certain cell phone or enabled mobile devices located outside,but near, our jurisdiction will receive the WEA alert because this technologyuses carrier towers. Closer to rural areas, bleed over may be significant (upto five miles) and in densely populated areas, it’s less (up to one mile). Officialstake issuing a WEA seriously – so if you receive a WEA, follow the protectiveactions and immediately turn to local news for more details. During an actualemergency officials are committed to providing critical life-savinginformation; therefore, there is no exclusivity to this responsibility. We wantto ensure the safety of the public which means we will communicate as much aspossible in as many ways as possible.
Authorizednational, state or local government authorities may send alerts regardingpublic safety emergencies – such as evacuation orders or shelter-in-placeorders due to severe weather, a terrorist threat or chemical spill – using WEA.The alerts from authenticated public safety officials are sent through FEMA'sIntegrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) to participating wirelesscarriers, which then push the alerts to cell phones and enabled mobile devicesin the affected area.
There arethree types of messages sent through WEA: extreme weather and other threateningemergencies in an area, AMBER alerts, and Presidential alerts during a nationalemergency.
Authorizedofficials select the coverage area(s) which best match the location of anemergency. All WEA-enabled mobile devices in the target location can receivethe alert, even if they are roaming or visiting from another state. In otherwords, a customer visiting from Richmond or Detroit would receive alerts in Washington,D.C., as long as he/she has a WEA-enabled mobile device in the alert zone.
The publicdoes not sign up to receive a WEA message; it is automatically deployed throughthe jurisdiction’s WEA system.
When the WEA programlaunched, participating wireless providers were generally required to send thealerts to a geographic area no larger than the county or counties affected bythe emergency situation. As of November 2017, all participating wirelessproviders are required to transmit alerts to a geographic area that bestapproximates the area affected by the emergency situation, even if it issmaller than a county. Beginning November 30, 2019, participating wirelessproviders must improve geo-targeting of alerts even further.
In the event widespread severe weather or othersignificant event occurs on April 5, the back-up date for the test is Monday,April 9, between 10-11 a.m., the WEA subcommitteechair, is hosting a call on Thursday, April 5, at 9 a.m. for the jurisdictionadministrators of the WEA system to give the green light for the test –Public Information Officers/Communication officials should connect with your WEA administrator tolearn the outcome of this April 5 conference call.
Periodictesting of public alert and warning systems assesses the system and identifiesany needed improvements. Public safety officialsneed to be sure in times of an emergency or disaster, they have reliablemethods and systems that will deliver urgent alerts and warnings to the public.Conducting a regional test supports the continued use, training, andimprovement of the WEA system.
It is verylikely based on a person’s location between 10-11 a.m. on Thursday, April 5,that he/she will receive multiple WEA messages. For example, a person attends acoffee meeting at 10:00 a.m. in Alexandria, at 10:30 a.m. drives to Arlingtonand 11:00 a.m. heads to D.C. for another meeting. As a person navigates aroundthe NCR during 10-11 a.m., they will receive multiple messages.
WEA is a shorttext message designed to capture your attention – emergency officials currentlyonly have 90 characters for the message. Messages sent (via telephone call,text message, or email) through Alert Prince George's often include morein-depth details about a critical event.
No. Thisservice is offered for free.
No. A WEAmessage is broadcast from area carrier towers to mobile devices in the area.Every WEA-capable phone within range receives the message, just like emergencyweather alerts you see on local TV. WEA, like the TV station, doesn't know whois tuned in.
According to the FCC, consumers with prepaidphones can receive WEAs as long as their provider has decided to participate inWEA and the customer has a WEA-enabled device. These consumers receive the alertsjust as customers with paid, monthly service do.
WEA is one of the many ways emergency officialswill communicate with you during an emergency. Other sources include NOAAWeather Radio, news broadcasts, the Emergency Alert System on radio and TV.
There arenumerous reasons a person may not receive the WEA test:
1) Someparticipating carriers may offer WEA on some, but not all, of their mobiledevices. Consumers should check with their wireless carriers to find out iftheir cell phone is WEA-capable.
2) Whenthe test is deployed, a person is taking a call on their cell phone.
3) If apps are running, you may not receive the audible alert.
4) Participationin WEA by wireless carriers is widespread but voluntary. Some carriers mayoffer WEA over all or parts of their service areas or over all or only some oftheir wireless devices. Other carriers may not offer WEA at all. Even if youhave WEA-enabled device, you would not receive WEAs in a service area where theprovider is not offering WEA or if your device is roaming on a provider networkthat does not support the WEA service. Consumers should check with theirwireless carriers to determine the extent to which they are offering WEA.
5) It’spossible you may have turned off the WEA notification on your cell phone. Todetermine if the alert is on or off, you could try (based on the version ofyour phone):
· Launch the Settings app on your iPhone. Tap on Notification Center and scroll all the way to the bottom. Under the Government Alerts section, toggle the AMBER Alerts or Government Alerts option on or off to enable or disable them.
To review status, go to Settings, click on the More option under the Wireless & Networks section, and scroll down to the Cell Broadcasts settings. Once opened, you will be able to see if disable extreme threats, severe threats, and Amber Alerts are selected.
*This depends on the version of aperson’s phone. Older versions of phones will have different paths to settings.
Cell phonesfrom major manufacturers such as Apple, Samsung and LF receive WEA regardlessof where the device was purchased. This is possible because WEA are broadcastfrom area carrier towers to mobile devices in the area.
No. Towards the end of 2017, emergency management officials determined exercising the coordination and deployment of a coordinated, regional WEA was needed to ensure the public receives the right information, at the right time, to make the right decisions during an actual emergency.
Local governmentemergency managers need to hear from the public about the test. At theconclusion of the test, a survey link will be distributed within participatingjurisdictions. Individuals will be asked to complete a web based survey toshare experiences regarding the WEA test. The survey will close on Friday,April 13.
The FCC offers this guide: https://www.fcc.gov/public-safety-and-homeland-security/policy-and-licensing-division/alerting/general/wireless