According to the Benton County Office of Emergency Communications, they are the first in the state to send free emergency warnings to cell phones, radio and television stations.
The new system will be ready to use this summer and a county representative said it will help save lives in emergency situations.
To read more about the system in detail, check out the press release below.
Next Generation of Emergency Alerting Coming to Benton County
Benton County Arkansas, The Benton County Office of Emergency Communications (BCOEC) announced today that public safety officials will be able to utilize the County's public alert system BCAlert, which is powered by Cooper Notifications, to deliver emergency alerts and warnings simultaneously to cell phones, radio, and television broadcast as a result of a partnership with FEMA's Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS). IPAWS uses an alert aggregator to route alerts and warnings to a variety of communication pathways, including the Commercial Mobile Alert System) which sends Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) text messages directly to cell phones in an affected area.
Benton County is the first in the state of Arkansas to partner with FEMA and obtain this capability, which will be ready for use mid to late summer. "By sending free emergency messages directly to cell phones, even if the phone is just traveling through our county, we can ensure that life-saving information, whether it is about evacuation, chemical spills, or other hazardous situations, reaches people in a timely manner," said BCOEC Director Joshua Billis. "Our job and highest priority is the safety of our citizens and those who visit our county. This new capability will increase our ability to safe lives."
Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) are the result of a partnership between commercial mobile service providers, FEMA IPAWS, and the FCC, allowing authorities to send targeted alerts to personal cell phones, even when cellular voice and data services are overloaded and struggling to support person-to-person calls, text, or emails. This is made possible through the use of cell broadcast channels that send information to any cell phone using a cell tower. WEA will not track an individual's locations or personal data, as it uses a broadcast (one- way) technology. This assures that authorities cannot collect any subscriber-related data, including details on who is in the targeted area and/or who has successfully received the emergency alert.
WEA messages use a unique ringtone and vibration, but will not interrupt calls in progress. The default setting on new cell phones will be "opt-in" although individuals can choose not to receive Imminent Threat and AMBER Alerts. The broadcast of WEA messages from a cell tower continues for the entire time of the alert so that if a cell phone enters the affected area after the initial message it too will receive the alert message. There is no charge to individuals receiving the alerts.
Currently, newer phone models will be WEA capable and some phones may be upgradeable. The wireless industry estimates that by 2014, nearly all phones on the market will be WEA capable. To check whether your handset will receive alerts contact your wireless carrier.