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New emergency alerts require no sign-up

Idaho weather may be taking a turn for the worse this week, but if an emergency weather situation pops up, FEMA and the National Weather Service now have a way to automatically reach your cell phone, no matter where you are.

The Wireless Emergency Alert system sends out text message-like alerts from cell phone towers in the area, reaching every phone

That means no signing up and no transferring of your personal information back to a database.

The meteorologists at the National Weather Service are always keeping an eye on what’s coming down outside, but starting this month, their emergency alerts — and two other types — will be sent to phones automatically.

“It’s the most important thing we do. We’re giving folks the forecast all the time but there are times when we want to alert them to a real hazard. We see it in the midwest all the time with these devastating tornadoes. But we get some pretty nasty weather here too, so for flash floods and tornado warnings, that will automatically be alerted to your device,” said meteorologist in-charge Rick Dittmann.

And it’s not really a text message, just a different kind of electronic alert, like the warnings that flash on television, just in a more convenient format.

The WEA uses a unique ring tone, won’t interrupt cell phone calls and doesn’t cost anything.

“And if you’re driving across Nebraska, and they issue tornado warnings, which they do, then you’ll get it there too,” Dittmann said.

Pocatello resident Caleb Edwards said it would be helpful for traveling.

“I myself don’t travel much, but I don’t know, it still might be a good thing. It’s the same reason you have insurance, there still might be that vague chance,” Edwards said.

Jim Davies, also of Pocatello, said he’s made it this far without cell phone alerts and doesn’t really see the point.

“I’m smart enough to get by without somebody telling me that bad weather’s coming,” he said.

But Dittmann said, with people on their phones 24/7, this has been a long time coming.

“Anyone at the National Weather Service has been trying to get this done,” he said.

Presidential Alerts, Imminent Threat Alerts and Amber Alerts will all be sent through the new version of the Commercial Mobile Alert System, and should be done without having to sign up. Contact your specific provider for more details.

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