MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Weather warnings and other alerts will soon be available on your cell phone. This is part of a national plan to alert Americans to warnings, no matter where they are.
Free messages will be sent by the National Weather Service, several Minnesota state agencies, and even the president.
Kris Eide, director of the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, says this new service is a game-changer.
“This is a revolutionary way to alert people by cell phone and to warn them of an approaching emergency,” said Eide.
Once you run an operating system update for your mobile device, an emergency icon will appear on your phone.
Alerts will carry a special tone. An example of an alert will look like the following: “Tornado Warning in the area till 7pm central. Take shelter now. Check local media – National Weather Service.”
Todd Krause, warning coordination meteorologist for the National Weather Service, says the messages will be comprehensive.
“It’ll mention what type of warning we’re talking about, where is it, what time, what action we recommend you take, and then the issuing agency,” said Krause.
Alerts will be sent to specific cell towers, and all phones in the tower’s range will get the message.
“This phone will give me the alerts of where I am, so it’s based on the pinging off of the cell phone towers,” said Eide.
The president can issue Presidential Alerts during a national emergency, such as a terrorist attack.
The National Weather Service can issue weather alerts for tornadoes, flash floods and blizzards.
Homeland Security will use alerts involving incidents at Minnesota’s nuclear plants, or during a hazardous materials spill.
Minnesota’s portion of this national alert system will start running within a couple weeks.
State officials say that Apple i-Phones won’t be ready to take the alerts until fall, but Android-based phones should be ready to receive these alerts immediately.
You can opt out of the weather alerts, but the Presidential Alerts are mandatory for all.