Wireless emergency alerts sent ahead of Northeast blizzard

Some wireless customers in the Northeast on Thursday received an alert on their phone about the impending blizzard expected to blanket the region with snow over the weekend. The alerts were sent as part of the government's new federal emergency alert system. However, not every subscriber in the region received an alert because not all phones on all participating carriers support the new system.

The system, called Wireless Emergency Alert system, allows the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the National Weather Service to deliver warning messages to wireless subscribers (at least those with supported phones) in a specific geographical area. The WEA system also can send AMBER alerts for missing children.

Most major U.S. carriers, including Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S), Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ), AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T), T-Mobile USA, U.S. Cellular (NYSE: USM), Cricket provider Leap Wireless (NASDAQ:LEAP) and others, announced support for the program in 2011, and implemented the technology in 2012. The FCC, CTIA and FEMA collaborated on the launch.

However, older phones may not support the new service. 

"To receive these alerts, you might need to only upgrade your device's software, rather than purchase a new one," CTIA said. "To confirm Wireless Emergency Alerts are available in your area and your device is capable of receiving the alerts, please check with your carrier."

For more:
- see this ABC News article
- see this AllThingsD article
- see this Slate article
- see this CTIA page

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