Did you get the ominous weather alert message on your cell phone Thursday evening warning of a dust storm?
At 5:44 p.m. Monday, an emergency alert warning of a dust storm in eastern
Riverside County and Arizona was sent via a national
emergency alerts system called Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEAs).
"Formally known as the Commercial Mobile Alerting System, the system allows authorized government agencies, such as the National Weather Service, to initiate a process to send messages to wireless phone users in a targeted geographic area," Verizon Wireless Spokeswoman Debi Lewis told Patch earlier this month.
Thursday’s message did not apply to local residents unless they were traveling in southeast California or southwest Arizona, near Yuma.
Here is part of what the National Weather Service actually issued Thursday:
THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN PHOENIX HAS
ISSUED A DUST STORM WARNING...WHICH IS IN EFFECT UNTIL 7 PM MST /7 PM PDT/ THIS
* AFFECTED AREA...MUCH OF FAR SOUTHWEST ARIZONA AND SOUTHEAST CALIFORNIA...INCLUDING THE CITY OF YUMA.
The WEA system does not need your mobile number,
and does not track your whereabouts; it simply broadcasts the alert, and any
mobile devices that can hear the alert will display it to the user.
According to Verizon Wireless, only select, newer model phones are activated with WEA capability. So if you did not receive the alert, chances are your phone model is not supported, or your settings have the alerts deactivated. To find out more about your specific device, check with your wireless carrier.
For some more information about WEAs, here are "five things to know" provided by Verizon:
· WEAs are free messages. They do not count against users’ text plans, nor will they appear on their bills.
· WEAs are targeted to specific areas. Anyone roaming outside the target geographic area will not receive the message.
· Only WEA-capable devices can receive the alerts. Verizon Wireless currently offers 13 such devices, which are marked with a special logo both in stores and online.
· Users with SMS or text blocks on their accounts will still receive these alerts because they are delivered differently than regular texts.
· There are three types of WEAs: Imminent Danger Alerts about weather events and threat levels, Amber Alerts related to missing children and Presidential Alerts pertaining to national authority concerns. Mobile phone users may opt out of Imminent Danger and Amber Alerts, but cannot opt out of Presidential Alerts, generally located under Settings. –Renee Schiavone and Toni McAllister contributed to this report.