FCC Chairman Ajit Pai explains how the Wireless Emergency Alert system works.

The Wireless Emergency Alerts system is an essential part of America's emergency preparedness. Since its launch in 2012, the WEA system been used more than 40,000 times to warn the public about dangerous weather, missing children, and other critical situations – all through alerts on compatible cell phones and other mobile devices.

WEA is a public safety system that allows customers who own certain wireless phones and other compatible mobile devices to receive geographically-targeted, text-like messages alerting them of imminent threats to safety in their area.

WEA enables government officials to target emergency alerts to specific geographic areas – lower Manhattan, for example.

WEA was established in 2008 pursuant to the Warning, Alert and Response Network (WARN) Act and became operational in 2012.

Wireless companies volunteer to participate in WEA, which is the result of a unique public/private partnership between the FCC, FEMA and the wireless industry to enhance public safety.

FAQs about WEA

  • How does WEA work?  expand and contract
  • Who receives the alerts?  expand and contract
  • How much do consumers pay to receive WEA?  expand and contract
  • Do consumers have to sign up to receive alerts?  expand and contract
  • What alerts does WEA deliver?  expand and contract
  • What do consumers experience when they receive a WEA?  expand and contract
  • Are consumers able to receive WEAs on a prepaid phone?  expand and contract
  • Does WEA track my location?  expand and contract
  • Are WEAs text messages?  expand and contract
  • Do consumers need a new phone or a smart phone to receive alerts?  expand and contract
  • Is WEA available everywhere?  expand and contract
  • Can consumers block WEAs?  expand and contract
  • Why can't consumers block WEAs issued by the President?  expand and contract
  • How will subscribers know if their carrier offers WEA?  expand and contract
  • My friend just received a WEA over her cell phone, but I did not. We are in the same location. Why didn’t I receive a WEA?  expand and contract
  • How geographically precise is WEA?  expand and contract
  • What is the FCC's role in WEA?  expand and contract
  • Does the FCC send alerts?  expand and contract
  • Why did I receive a WEA test message?  expand and contract
  • Who do I contact with questions about how WEA works on my wireless device?  expand and contract

Print out

Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) Guide (pdf)

More information

Background on WEA Policy


Date Last Updated/Reviewed: 
Wednesday, July 31, 2019