The Emergency Warning System: Lesson Learned in CT


Last night, while it was raining heavily outside, I was about to bed. Then, my phone started to vibrate and this message pop up! “What’s going on outside”, I guess.

emer alert

Another alert showed on my phone’s screen while I was sleeping. It did wake me up and luckily I found that my room’s ceiling is leaking!! Well, it is very useful for people in affecting community especially when a severe disaster might happen during the night time. Then, I google about the emergency message last night.

 emer alert 2

What are Wireless Emergency Alerts?

Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) is a public safety system for emergency alerts and distribute as quickly as possible via mobile devices. People will receive geographically-targeted, text-like messages alerting them of imminent threats to safety in their area. Moreover, it is ensured that emergency alerts will not get stuck in highly congested areas. WEA was established pursuant to the Warning, Alert and Response Network (WARN) Act. By this technology, WEA enables government officials to target emergency alerts to specific geographic areas



What alerts does WEA deliver?

Alerts from WEA cover only critical emergency situations. Consumers will receive only three types of alerts:

  1. Alerts issued by the President
  2. Alerts involving imminent threats to safety or life
  3. Amber Alerts

How does WEA work?

The alerts from authenticated public safety officials are sent through Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)’s Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) to mobile devices in the affected area. WEA is officially launched on April 7, 2012. At that time, FEMA serve as the aggregator to relay emergency alerts from authorized government agencies (including national, state or local officials).
Alerts are geographically targeted; customers with a CMAS-capable mobile device in an area where an alert has been sent will have the ability to receive the alert. Wireless Emergency Alerts are up to 90 characters in length and will contain:

  • What is happening
  • What area is affected
  • When the alert will expire
  • What action should be taken
  • Who is sending the alert

When an alert is sent customers will receive a unique signal and vibration. Similar to a text message, the alert will be stored in the phone’s messaging menu until deleted.

There is no charge for Wireless Emergency Alerts. These alerts do not impact voice, text, or data usage. Customers with CMAS-capable mobile devices may turn off the Imminent Threat (Extreme & Severe) and/or AMBER alerts; Presidential alerts cannot be turned off. Furthermore, WEA alert is accompanied by a unique attention signal and vibration, which is particularly helpful to people with hearing or vision-related disabilities.

This diagram illustrates how Wireless Emergency Alerts are sent and received.


Then, I ask my colleagues to find out more about the emergency alerts. I am informed about the urgent child-abduction bulletins called AMBER. AMBER is officially a contrived acronym for America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response, but was named after Amber Hagerman, a 9-year-old abducted and murdered in Arlington, Texas, in 1996. The AMBER Alert™ Program is a voluntary partnership between law-enforcement agencies, broadcasters, transportation agencies, commercial electronic billboards, and the wireless industry to activate an urgent bulletin in the most serious child-abduction cases. AMBER Alerts are distributed via commercial radio stations, Internet radio, satellite radio, television stations, cable TV, e-mail, electronic traffic-condition signs, Google, Bing and Facebook. The goal of an AMBER Alert is to instantly galvanize the entire community to assist in the search for and the safe recovery of the child.

What should be done in Thailand?

Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation (DDPM), Ministry of Interior is in charge of disaster risk management and emergency management authorized by Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Act B.E.2550 (2007) and National Master Plan for Disaster Prevention and Mitigation correlating with National Security Strategy. As Thailand is exposed to a variety of hazards, but the ones affecting the most amount of people are drought and floods especially seasonal flooding which may occur at the same time and the same place. It does cost a huge budget to recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction. Moreover, in December 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami hit along the west coast.  The tsunami resulted thousands of fatalities both local people and tourists because the country had no early warning system for the tsunami hazard. This is the reason why the central government tends to pay attention more on disaster management and leverage early warning and decision support tools. Thai officials created the National Disaster Warning Center (NDWC) to improve tsunami and earthquake warnings with funding from the United States Trade and Development Agency (USTDA).

Although there are the legislation, national plan, structural organization including staffs, budget and resources, what Thailand needs to be done is about the Information and Communication. Information and communications technologies can help disaster managers quickly access, contextualize, and apply near real-time information, improving the speed and effectiveness of critical actions like warning populations at risk. This kind of system can be cooperated effectively among central government, local government, private sectors (communication business section) and international agencies. Therefore, I think the lesson learned from Emergency alerts above-mentioned will be useful for social security in my country and would reduce more severe loss in the future.




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