Pros and Cons of the new emergency alert system -


Pros and Cons of the new emergency alert system

Your phone plays plenty of sounds, but have you heard the new government emergency alert system and wondered what it was?

"A wireless emergency alert is a text-like message that's sent to alert the public of an emergency critical situation in their area," David Kidwell with Cincinnati Bell said.

Through partnerships and local and state agencies you can get the emergency alerts.

"If you have a WEA-enabled phone, most of the newer ones are at this point, then you are potentially going to start receiving these at some point in the future," Kidwell said.

The alerts are geographically targeted text-like messages, so you know of imminent threats in your area.

There are three kinds of these alerts. They are imminent danger including extreme weather warnings, amber alerts and presidential alerts.

"Everybody has a cell phone in their pocket. In the case of an emergency or critical situation, that alert can reach you where are, no matter where you are," Kidwell said.

You might think back and wonder if you've ever downloaded anything to get these alerts - you didn't.

Wireless companies choose to participate in the WEA program and the ability to receive the alerts are built in by your phone's manufacturer.

You do have the ability to turn these alerts off, but not all of them.

"You cannot opt out of Presidential alerts," Kidwell said.

According to the FCC's wireless emergency alerts guide, in passing of the Warn Act, "Congress allowed participating characters to offer subscribers the capability to block all WEA's except those issued by the president."

"It does seem a little big brother-ish though that the government can just commandeer your phone and jam stuff into it whenever they want," Dave Hatter said.

The FCC said these alerts will not track your location. But can these messages be hacked and tampered with?

"As far as we know, to this point, Wireless Emergency Alerts aren't vulnerable to attack or being hacked," Kidwell said.

Cell phone providers are encouraging you though to at least give the system a try before you try to disable it.

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