Journal-Times (Grayson, KY)

January 29, 2014

City, county launch wireless alerts

By Leeann Akers - Editor
Journal-Times

Jan. 29, 2014 — A system that emergency managers hope they never need is now in place for Carter County.

The Wireless Emergency Alert System (WEA) can be used if necessary, thanks to a Memorandum of Agreement between the City of Grayson, Carter County Emergency Management, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System Program Management Office.

The system sends alerts to mobile devices in case of extreme weather, AMBER alerts or presidential alerts.

“A WEA alert will look like a text message and will show the type and time of the alert, any action you should take, and the agency issuing the alert,” said Joanne Dunfee, Grayson’s assistant emergency management director. “The message will be no more than 90 characters and will include a special tone and vibration, both repeated twice.”

Dunfee said the messages will contain any action that might be advised, or ways to find more information through local media.

To receive the alerts, cell phone clients don't need to do anything. The messages are automatically sent to every phone that is a WEA-capable phone and the wireless carrier participates in the program which most apparently do.

“There are areas where this program is already in place,” Dunfee said. “If you travel into those areas and an alert is sent, you will get the message, even if your number is from another state. It hits all the phones in the area it can reach.”

The messages are free. Dunfee said the messages are very short and designed to get a person’s attention in a critical situation.

“You may get very few WEA messages or you may receive frequent messages when conditions change during an emergency,” Dunfee said. “The number of messages depends on the number of imminent threats to life or property in the area.”

Dunfee said that network congestion won't affect the delivery of WEA messages.

Other sources for emergency information include NOAA Weather Radio, news broadcasts, the Emergency Alert System on radio and TV programs, outdoor sirens, and other alerting methods offered by local and state public safety agencies.

You can opt-out of receiving WEA messages for imminent threats and AMBER alerts but not for presidential messages. 

To opt out, mobile device settings need to be adjusted.

Leeann Akers can be reached at lakers@journal-times.com or by phone at 474-5101.