Wireless Emergency Alerts FAQs
1) What devices support Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA)?
U.S. Cellular® has several devices available to support Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA). U.S. Cellular is committed to providing Wireless Emergency Alerts to as many phones as possible. To determine if a device is WEA-capable, please review the phone description page.
2) What will Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) look like and how do they work?
Read more about how Wireless Emergency Alerts work.
3) Will there be costs for Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA)?
There is no charge for WEA. Alerts do not impact voice, messaging, or data usage.
4) What will trigger a Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA)?
There are three types of alerts:
Presidential: issued by the United States government; used to notify recipients of any national communication from the President; highest priority of the three alert types and cannot be suppressed.
Imminent Threats: issued by local, state, and federal officials or government agencies; used to provide notification of emergencies where life or property is at risk. Imminent Threats are categorized as Extreme or Severe.
AMBER: issued by a federal official; used to notify the community of missing, injured, lost, endangered or abducted children.
5) Will I receive Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) while travelling?
WEA are enabled throughout the U.S. Cellular coverage area and will be broadcasted to the affected areas within our coverage area. You may receive WEA when roaming on another carrier's network that supports the Commercial Mobile Alert System (CMAS) within the 50 states. We cannot guarantee service on another carrier's network.
6) Do I need to select areas where I want to receive alerts?
Unlike programs that are based on customer selected zip codes, area codes, or other designated filters, Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) are broadcasted to all enabled devices within the affected area.
7) Will Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) track my location? Do I need GPS to receive an alert?
No. Neither subscriber information nor GPS is used to broadcast the alerts. Alerts are sent to all Commercial Mobile Alerts System-capable (CMAS) wireless devices in the affected geographical area.
8) Do Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) have other names?
The official name for this public safety system is Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA). In the early development of the system, it was also referred to as the Commercial Mobile Alert System (CMAS) and Personal Localized Alerting Network (PLAN).
9) What is the difference between Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) and other organizations sending similar types of alerts?
General Short Message System-type (SMS) alerts from other organizations, while beneficial, are limited in nature and not authenticated through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Only authorized local, state, and federal officials can send WEA regarding critical emergencies, such as a tornado or a terrorist threat, to the Commercial Mobile Alert System (CMAS).
WEA are unique because they utilize cell broadcast technology which is not subject to the same network congestion limitations as SMS and Multi Media System (MMS) messages. Cell broadcast technology allows messages to be sent to mobile phones in a specific geographical area regardless of the amount of traffic on the network.
10) How do I unsubscribe from receiving Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA)?
You may change settings within your device to opt out of Imminent Threats and AMBER alerts, but you may not opt out of Presidential alerts. Refer to the manufacturer's website for the full user guide with operating instructions and information.
11) Why did I receive a Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) when I have blocked text or picture messaging from my account?
Though WEA look similar to text or picture messages, they are broadcast messages that are not delivered through the Short Message System (SMS) or Multi Media System (MMS) and are therefore not blocked. There is no charge for WEA and they do not impact voice, messaging or data usage.
12) A Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) was distributed in my area, but I didn't receive it. Why?
In some cases, factors outside of our control, such as devices not being powered on, local terrain or technical difficulties could prevent the delivery of WEA. Delivery of WEA is not guaranteed and may not be received in weak signal areas.
13) Will I receive a Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) if I am on a call or in a data session when an alert is issued?
If you are in the affected area, you will receive the alert when your call or data session is concluded if the alert period has not expired.
14) Will I receive a Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) if my phone is turned off when an alert is issued?
No, unless you turn your phone on before the alert period has expired. The same is true if your phone is in airplane mode.
15) Who should I contact if I have questions or need additional information about a Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) that I received?
You should contact the alert sender with any questions about a specific alert. U.S. Cellular is not responsible for the content of any WEA and has no information beyond what is included in the message. The alerts originate from local, state or federal agencies.
16) Can I disable the audible tone for incoming alerts?
Yes. Audible tones can be disabled in the Commercial Mobile Alert System (CMAS) alert settings or by turning off the master volume.
17) How can I tell the difference between a Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) and a text message?
WEA have a unique sound and vibration that distinguish them from text messages. They also have a distinct visual notification.
18) Will I receive test alerts similar to the Emergency Alert System used with radio and television?
No. Wireless carriers are required to participate in monthly tests of the system; however, customers will not receive test Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA).
19) Will rebooting my phone change my Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) settings?
WEA settings will not change if the phone is rebooted; however, they will change if the phone is reset back to the manufacturer's settings.
20) Why did I receive multiple alerts?
Commercial Mobile Alert System-capable (CMAS) devices should receive an alert only once; however, similar messages may be issued within the alert period or your device may receive a duplicate alert if you are roaming on another carrier's network.
21) Will all local, state and federal government agencies participate in sending Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA)?
Not all local, state or federal agencies are authorized to send WEA messages via the Commercial Mobile Alert System (CMAS). Customers can check with their local government to learn if they are authorized.
22) Why did I receive a Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) when my account has been suspended or cancelled?
Wireless Emergency Alerts are a public safety service offered at no charge and they do not impact voice, messaging or data usage. As a result, you will receive WEA regardless of your account status. They are broadcasted to all customers with a CMAS-capable device in the affected area.
23) I received a Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) that I want to share with others. How can I do that?
WEA cannot be forwarded, replied to, copied or edited. They will be archived and can be deleted.
24) Why was the Commercial Mobile Alert System (CMAS) developed and what is the history of Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA)?
In 2006, Congress passed the Warning, Alert and Response Network Act that allows wireless carriers to broadcast emergency alerts to their customers on a voluntary basis. By the direction of Congress, the act was implemented "to ensure that all Americans have the capability to receive timely and accurate alerts, warnings and critical information regarding disasters and other emergencies irrespective of what communications technologies they use." With this new public safety system, the wireless industry now joins the radio and television industry in broadcasting emergency notifications to the public.
25) If I signed up to receive Wireless AMBER Alerts from U.S. Cellular in conjunction with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), will I also receive AMBER Alerts through Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA)?
In late 2012, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) and Syniverse formally announced the Wireless AMBER Alerts™ program ceased operations as part of the nation's transition to the Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) program. As of December 31, 2012, the legacy Wireless AMBER Alerts program fully transitioned to the Wireless Emergency Alert platform. These alerts meet the U.S. Department of Justice's criteria to help law enforcement search for and locate an abducted child. Millions of cellphone users across the country will now receive free, automatic notifications about abducted children in their area as part of the WEA program. The 700,000 wireless customers originally enrolled in Wireless AMBER Alerts received text messages about the transition and alternative sources for receiving AMBER Alerts. For more information about the alternative sources, please visit http://www.missingkids.com/ambersignup/.