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Cell Phones

  Before The Event     During The Event     After The Event     Resources  

Before the Event

Wireless calls travel over airwaves to another phone, and just like radios, they can be obstructed by conditions outside. You can maximize your wireless service during an emergency situation by being prepared and following a few simple tips.

  • Program all of your emergency contact numbers into your cell phone, including the police department, fire station, hospital and family members. You don't want to have to search for these important numbers during or after an emergency.
  • Make sure that those who need your wireless number have it. 
  • Have a family communications plan in place. Designate someone out of the area as a central contact, and be sure all family members know who to contact if they become separated.
  • Keep your wireless phone and back-up batteries charged at all times. Have an alternate plan to recharge your batteries in case of power outages. For example, you can charge with a car charger, or use a disposable cell phone battery.
  • Keep extra phones and accessories in a sealed plastic bag to avoid water damage.
  • Use the camera feature on your phone to take and store photos of your property so that you have a record of the condition of your property before any type of emergency event.
  • Have a least one corded phone in your home. Corded phones may still work even if the power goes out. 
  • Remember, weather updates are available from most cell phones.

Wireless Emergency Alerts

Most wireless carriers send emergency alerts from authorized government agencies directly to your cell phone. No registration is required. You will automatically receive Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) if you have a WEA capable phone and your wireless carrier participates in the program. WEAs can be sent by authorized local and state public safety agencies, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the Department of Homeland Security, and the National Weather Service.

WEAs are free messages, limited to 90 characters and sent using one-way cell broadcast technology, even if other wireless voice and data services in the area are highly congested. The messages include a special tone and vibration, both repeat twice. There are three types of alerts:

  • Presidential Alerts during a national emergency
  • Imminent Threat Alerts including severe man-made or natural disaster, such as hurricanes, tornadoes, etc., where an imminent threat to life or property exists
  • AMBER Alerts that meet the U.S. Department of Justice's criteria to help law enforcement search for and locate an abducted child.

For information about which mobile devices are WEA-capable and wireless carrier participation, please visit ctia.org/wea or contact your wireless carrier.

Updated August 2013

 


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