Text Messages From National Weather Service Could Save Lives

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Your cell phone might just save your life: What are being called “Wireless Emergency Alerts” will automatically buzz your cell phone about life-threatening weather or local emergencies starting this summer.

The Wireless Emergency Alerts cover extreme weather warnings like tornadoes and floods; messages from local Emergency Management, such as evacuations; AMBER alerts; and Presidential alerts during a national crisis.

National Weather Service Warning Coordination Meteorologist Carol Christenson in Duluth says all cell phone carriers are taking part across the country, although it might not work on older cell phones. She says you can opt out, but you do not have to opt in: “And you don’t even have to do a thing. It’s automatic. So it’s really cool. (Even if your cell phone is off?) “Your cell phone needs to be on.”

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She says the alert is a special tone and vibration.

“You can be talking on it, doing something with it, and it will automatically alert. However, if you’re on the phone with someone, it’ll wait until you’re done talking on the phone. So it’s like getting a really, really, really important text message. It’s some kind of alarm and alert that is totally different from anything else on your phone, so it’ll be sure to get your attention.”

Christenson says the alerts will come from the nearest cell phone tower, so if you’re traveling, you’ll get warnings from the area you’re in. The Wireless Emergency Alert is free.

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