Q: What is Massachusetts Alerts?
A: Massachusetts Alerts is a communication tool used by MEMA to disseminate critical information to smartphones. Massachusetts Alerts is powered by a free downloadable application app that is available for Android and iPhone devices based on your location. Currently the app is available for iOS and Android platforms.
Q: Where do I get the app or get more information?
Q: What type of alerts will I receive?
A: Once you download the app, you can adjust your preferences in the settings section of the app. The default settings include receiving "public safety" messages from organizations like MEMA and weather warnings (like tornado, thunderstorm, flash flood, blizzard, hurricane, and more) from the National Weather Service. The settings also allow you to receive less severe weather alerts if you wish such as weather watches, advisories, and special weather statements from the National Weather Service.
Q: How will Massachusetts Alerts notify me if an alert has been sent about severe weather or other emergencies?
A: When a new alert is sent, the app will cause your phone to sound an audible alert (depending on your settings) and it will push a notification to your phone’s screen. The sound settings for notifications can be adjusted in the app's "settings" section. In addition, certain severe messages about life threatening conditions may override the phone’s silent or vibrate settings to ensure that the user gets the message.
Q: What do I do after receiving a message?
A: It depends on the nature of the event. The message may contain a recommended course of action. The message may also provide prompt you to access additional critical information by clicking on the more information button on the message screen. You should also check other sources of information, such as the radio or television or information from public safety officials. Do not call 9-1-1 unless you have an emergency.
Q: Is the Massachusetts Alerts app storing or tracking my information?
A: No, the Massachusetts Alerts app uses your location when you have location services enabled on your smartphone. The location information is used to provide the warnings if you are in the affected area. While the app is aware of your location, it does not receive or store any identifying information from your smartphone. In other words it knows where you are, not who you are or anything about you.
Q: What functions will the app have if cellular and data networks are down?
A: The app relies on data service to provide situational information. If there is no data service available, the messages will not be received until the data service is operational.
Q: Is this the same as other emergency cell phone alerts that I have seen or received?
A: Separate from this app, the wireless industry, the FCC, and FEMA have developed the Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) system. Certain cell phones are currently WEA compatible with the list expected to grow in the future. The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency will use Massachusetts Alerts and WEAs to provide critical information to the public; each system provides certain benefits. WEAs only pushes text messages while Massachusetts Alerts has the ability to target a specific area for a message and it has the ability for two way communications and can include images and links to more information. The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency strongly recommends that smartphone users in Massachusetts utilize Massachusetts Alerts and WEAs to receive critical information during emergencies.
Q: How does this differ from my local community’s emergency notification (“reverse 911” type) system? Do I need both?
A: Many communities (and some counties) in Massachusetts operate some type of local emergency notification (“reverse 911” type) system that may require registration in order to get local alerts and messages. Massachusetts Alerts is a complementary notification tool with different features and is designed to supplement, not replace, these local notification systems. Certain messages such as severe weather alerts, amber alerts, and others may be sent via Massachusetts Alerts which may not be sent via local emergency notification systems. Also certain community specific information may be sent only by local notification system. Certain incidents may result in messages via both Massachusetts Alerts and local notification systems. In addition, Massachusetts Alerts currently only works on iPhones and Android smartphone devices while local notification systems may provide additional ways of receiving messages (email, landline phones, and calls to cell phones). Massachusetts Alerts provides information to the smart phone based on where the phone is in the state, unlike local notification systems which typically only relate to the one community. MEMA encourages everyone to BOTH download Massachusetts Alerts AND to sign up for local notification systems (which can be done by contacting local public safety agencies).
Q: I am having trouble with the app and I believe it is not working correctly. What should I do?
A: Once the Massachusetts Alerts app has been downloaded, please make sure that the location services for the app are enabled so that you can receive specific warnings and messages based on your location. There is also a feature in the settings to send yourself a test message. If there are specific technical questions, there is a “report a problem” option within the app’s settings, or you can email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q: What phone permissions does the app ask for and why?
A: Depending on your operating system, the app may ask you permission to access location, photos/media/files, wi-fi connection information, and device ID & call information. These permissions are required to enable the functionality of the app including allowing MEMA to send alerts based on your location or allowing users to send tips, information, pictures or files to MEMA. The specific reasons for access to different permissions are outlined below. It is important to note that neither MEMA nor the app maker, Ping4alerts, retain any of the data accessed. Please note that for most alerts MEMA sends, the anonymous tips and callback number functions are disabled; therefore, Massachusetts Alerts would only access the location and wi-fi connection information.
- Location – The app uses the location of the phone to send alerts within a geographic area. It is an important aspect of the app’s technology because it allows alerts to be sent to your phone if you are in an impacted area and if you enter an area with an active alert.
- Photos/Media/Files – This would allow a user to attach a photo or file when sending an anonymous tip through the app. Generally, MEMA does not enable the anonymous tip feature in the alerts it sends.
- Wi-Fi connection information – The app uses wi-fi connection information for network connectivity and to enhance location services.
- Device ID & call information – This is the permission needed to access the phone dialer if a user elected to call back a number included in the alert. Generally, MEMA does not enable the anonymous tip feature in the alerts it sends. The app does not access the device id, the device phone number, call history, etc.
For more information about the Massachusetts Alerts app, visit Massachusetts Alerts