CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Some Kanawha County residents were startled Monday night when their cellphones lit up with an alert about a flash flood warning that had been issued.
It was part of the nationwide Wireless Emergency Alerts system, which sends alerts to individual cellphones during emergencies. Alerts are free, and are divided into three types: weather alerts, AMBER alerts and "Presidential Alerts," which come directly from the President of the United States.
Not everyone should expect to receive the alerts, however. Only WEA-compatible phones on participating carriers will get them. In some instances, users need to make sure they have downloaded the latest update to their phones for the alerts to work.
"I'm excited about it," said Kanawha County Deputy Emergency Manager C.W. Sigman. "I think it's an important tool."
The alerts are sent via cell towers, which allows them to be targeted to specific geographic regions. That means that if a cellphone user is traveling, they will receive alerts based on where they are currently located, not where the phone is from.
Sigman said that during his time with the county, local emergency management has used a variety of means to alert the public about imminent dangers, including emergency television and radio alerts and outdoor warning sirens, many of which were upgraded recently to include voice messages.
"But when we've had something going on, we've always had someone that said, 'I didn't know,'<!p><#148> he said.
A complete list of compatible phones and participating carriers is available online at www.ctia.org/consumer_info/safety.
As the alert system continues to mature and become available to more people, Kanawha County officials plan to increase public education and awareness. Sigman said that he will be meeting with different emergency agencies in the county over the next few weeks to discuss the system.
"Once we get a really good handle on it.<!p>.<!p>.we'll be getting our education plan ready to go," Sigman said.
Contact writer Matt Murphy at Matt.Mur...@dailymail.com or 304-348-4817.