Emergency officials unveil the new Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS).
The Wireless Emergency Alerts make use of cell phones to warn the public to dangerous conditions. It’s a joint effort from local and state emergency officials and the National Weather Service. Tod Pritchard is the Emergency Preparedness Coordinator with Wisconsin Emergency Management. “This is just the next step in using the technologies of the 21st century to really help people get alerted to emergencies right where they are, right at the moment they need that information.”
That means even if you’re not near a TV or radio, you can still get life-saving information at your fingertips. These emergency alerts will be activated by cell towers, so whether you’re at home, on vacation, or in your car, Pritchard says you will automatically see the message on your newer cell phone if you’re in an alerted area.
The new system will not bombard users with unwanted messages. Three types of alerts will be sent: warnings of imminent life-threatening emergencies, such as tornadoes, blizzards, flash flooding, ice storms, or man-made emergencies such as train derailments and evacuations; Amber alerts; and Presidential alerts. “It really fills in that gap that we’ve had in our alert system for so long … trying to get information directly to people in harm’s way. I think this could really save a lot of lives.”
The service free of charge; it doesn’t not affect your data plan; or track users via GPS; and it’s automatic — you do not have to sign up. There will be an audio alert and vibration with the message, which is limited to 90 characters. Pritchard says there will be no interruption to your phone conversation or downloads. You can opt out from all but presidential alerts.
Alerts will continue to be issued or available on other sources including radio/TV stations, on NOAA Weather Radios and local sirens. Alert tests will start Monday, June 18, and continue once a month.
AUDIO: Jackie Johnson report 2:00