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How to Access the Different Types of Emergency Alerts

Author: ServiceMaster Restore

You can't always predict when a significant weather-related event or other emergency will arise. During an emergency situation, having access to time-sensitive information can help you and your loved ones know how to respond and which actions to take in order to remain safe.

Learn the difference between the various types of weather and emergency alerts that local and national entities may issue, plus information on how each is broadcasted, with this helpful information from the experts at ServiceMaster Restore®.


Local entities and national organizations such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Weather Service (NWS) provide important alerts and warnings to local communities whenever emergencies are present. Using different technologies, these organizations relay critical information and sometimes order evacuations so residents can take immediate action to stay safe. Find out the primary methods that emergencies and weather advisories, watches and warnings are broadcasted below.


Public safety officials, the NWS, the President of the United States and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) can send life-saving information to the public through Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEAs). As part of the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS), WEAs can only be issued to inform the public of an AMBER Alert, an imminent threat or a presidential alert. While a WEA is similar to a text message, the alert features a sound and vibration that's designed to grab your attention quickly.

Cell phone users aren't charged for the alerts, and a subscription to the service is not typically necessary. Check with your service provider to ensure your devices are already WEA-capable. If you’d like to receive emergency notifications from your local jurisdiction, you may sign up for these local texts and emails. Check the website of your local emergency management or public safety office to find out if they offer opt-in alerts.


Through the Emergency Alert System (EAS), critical emergency information such as imminent threats, AMBER Alerts and threats that pertain to specific communities are broadcast through the television and radio. Broadcasters, cable television providers and wireless cable systems are required to provide the President with the ability to address the public within 10 minutes if a national emergency is imminent. The EAS may also be used by local and state organizations to deliver crucial emergency information to specific communities.

Since television providers and wireless cable systems are required to issue these important messages, signing up to receive information from the EAS isn’t necessary.


A national network of radio stations that provide continuous information from the NWS, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Weather Radio All Hazards (NWR) system relays official weather warnings, watches, forecasts and hazard information on a 24/7 basis. The comprehensive weather and emergency warning system also broadcast alerts of non-weather emergencies, including national security and public safety information.

To receive broadcasts from the NWS, you'll need a special weather radio receiver. Many retailers sell receivers that meet specific technical requirements. Look for the Public Alert or National Weather Service logo on the device.


IPAWS messages are often relayed via digital road signs, sirens and other methods to alert drivers and passengers of any current emergencies. That way, you can stay informed even if you’re away from devices.

Then they come in, whether through your cell phone, portable battery-powered radio or another device. You can even download apps like FEMA, the American Red Cross and The Weather Channel to get up-to-date information, so you can act fast and help protect yourself, your family and your home from the worst.

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