Millions of Americans – with and without disabilities – rely on emergency alerts on their wireless phones to receive important and potentially life-saving information.
What are Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEAs)?
WEAs are emergency messages sent by authorized government authorities to the public through participating wireless service providers. Wireless service customers who own compatible cell phones and other mobile devices receive geographically-targeted, text-like messages alerting them of imminent threats to safety in their area.
A WEA message appears on the screen as a text-like message and is accompanied by unique audio and vibration attention signals.
The following types of alerts may be sent through the WEA system:
- Extreme weather and other threatening emergencies in your area;
- Public safety messages to convey essential, recommended actions that can save lives or property (e.g., emergency shelter locations or a boil water order);
- Child abduction (AMBER) alerts; and
- Alerts designed to provide the capability for the President to address the public during a national emergency.
The FCC establishes technical and operational requirements for wireless providers' participation in WEA. The FCC does not create or transmit alerts. Authorized federal, state, local, Tribal, and local territorial authorities create alerts.
More information about WEA is available at https://www.fcc.gov/consumers/guides/wireless-emergency-alerts-wea.
What are the FCC's accessibility requirements for WEA messages?
WEA messages should be accompanied by unique audio and vibration attention signals ("cadence") to ensure accessibility. If you turn off the vibration or sound on your WEA-capable device, you may not feel the vibration or hear the attention signal of a WEA message.
After November 30, 2019, WEA messages must be preserved in a format and location that the wireless service customer can access for at least 24 hours after the message is received on the customer's wireless phone or mobile device, or until deleted by the customer. This allows individuals to have more time to review emergency information.
Will I hear the alert or feel the vibration if my WEA-capable device is turned off or set to silent mode?
To receive a WEA message, your wireless phone or mobile device must be WEA-capable, switched on, and in the vicinity of and receiving service from a cell tower of a wireless service provider that participates in WEA. You can opt out of receiving WEA messages that are not Presidential messages. To opt out, adjust settings on your mobile device. (Note: wireless subscribers are opted out of State/Local WEA tests by default; to receive State/Local WEA test messages, you must affirmatively opt in.)
If you turn off the vibration or sound on your WEA-capable device, you may not feel the vibration or hear the attention signal of a WEA message.
Will I receive the alert if my WEA-capable device is on Wi-Fi-only mode or "airplane mode"?
Wireless providers participating in WEA have opted to utilize cell broadcast service to deliver WEA to WEA-capable devices. If a device is not connected to the cellular network – such as a device in Wi-Fi-only Mode or "airplane mode" – the device would not receive WEA alerts.
How will I receive emergency information if I don't have a WEA-capable device?
WEA is only one of the ways to receive emergency information. Other sources include National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Weather Radio, news broadcasts, the Emergency Alert System on radio and television, outdoor sirens, and other alerting methods offered by local and state public safety agencies.
Are there WEA test messages and are they required to be accessible?
Yes, federal level tests are required to occur monthly. State and local jurisdictions decide their own schedule. Consumers must opt in to receive local and state and local WEA test alerts.
WEA messages, including test messages, should be accompanied by a unique audio and vibration attention signal ("cadence") to ensure accessibility. If your device is WEA-capable, it may include the capability to mute the audio attention signal and the vibration cadence.
Who do I contact at the FCC when I have concerns about the receipt or accessibility of a WEA national test message?
Contact the Public Safety Support Center at: https://www.fcc.gov/general/public-safety-support-center.
Who do I contact at the FCC when I have concerns about the accessibility of a WEA message that is not a national test alert?
Contact the FCC's Disability Rights Office at firstname.lastname@example.org, 202-418-2517 (voice), 888-835-5322 (TTY), or 844-432-2275 (videophone).