We're beginning to see stories across the country about the launch of the nationwide cell alert system. The FEMA IPAWS (Integrated Public Alert and Warning System) program has taken the Commercial Mobile Alert System (CMAS) live, and alerts (called Wireless Emergency Alerts or WEAs) are expected to start soon when the National Weather Service starts using the system for certain warnings. Local and state users will follow.
Although they may not be quite ready to issue WEAs yet, local public safety agencies are beginning to inform their public about the fact that they could start receiving WEA messages soon. A good example is Calvert County, Virginia. They issued a press release this week titled, "National Wireless Emergency Alert System Debuts: Weather Warnings, Other Alerts to be Sent to Mobile Phones Beginning This Month". They provided a good run-down of the program, but took it a step further.
Calvert County also helped the public understand the difference between WEA messages and the county's CodeRED system. They pointed out that WEA messages can only be 90 characters, and are meant to "heighten awareness and encourage residents to monitor the media for further information". However, the CodeRED system "is not limited by the number of characters and can send detailed information to users". In other words, they were telling the public to still sign up for the local CodeRED system.
Calvert County is not the only one issuing such press releases, but is a good example of one of the things that needs to be done so people understand what they're receiving when they receive a WEA message on their mobile device.
Meantime, Associated Press released an article today on the launch of CMAS/WEA. The article has been carried by media outlets across the country include the Chicago Tribune. (By the way, AP, although they're very deeply involved in the program and will start using it soon, WEA is a FEMA program, not a National Weather Service system.)
IMPORTANT UPDATE: About time I pressed "submit post" on this one, the National Weather Service announced that it can now send WEAs. Go here for an update.
All the best,