Receiving advance warnings for severe weather, timely emergency alerts, and information during a disaster is critical to staying safe during an emergency. Every family should have multiple methods for receiving emergency alerts, including at least one with an audible alert to wake you in the middle of the night.
Emergency Alert System (EAS)
The Emergency Alert System (EAS) is a national warning system that uses radio, television, and satellite channels to broadcast important public safety information during times of emergency. When an EAS is issued, you will hear a tone followed by an audio message. Participating television broadcasters will also display a visual message, which might take the form of a scrolling banner or a static slide.
This system can be used by state authorities to deliver emergency information, such as America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response (AMBER) alerts and severe weather warnings.
MEMA, under the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)’s Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS), has the authority to activate EAS and Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) on behalf of the Governor of Massachusetts, Director of MEMA, Massachusetts State Police (MSP), and National Weather Service (NWS).
Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA)
The Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) program is part of the EAS national alerting initiative, which enables cellphones to receive alerts for severe weather emergencies, imminent threats to life or property, AMBER alerts, and Presidential alerts.
Most WEAs are issued by the National Weather Service (NWS). These alerts are only used for the most imminent and severe weather conditions, which includes tornados, flash floods, hurricanes, and tsunamis.
MEMA can also issue a WEA for other imminent threats that meet the requirements set forth by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that were designed to ensure that only the most urgent public-safety messages are sent as a WEA.
The alerts are delivered on technology that overrides any wireless network congestion and delays and allows the information to target cellphones within the impact area. A WEA alerts users with a special tone and vibration. If you receive a WEA, you should follow the protective actions advised in the message.
You do not need to subscribe to any service to receive alerts. The alerts are sent to all WEA-enabled devices in the impacted region. To find out whether you have a WEA-enabled phone, you should contact your mobile carrier.
More information about WEA (including links to cellphone carrier) is available on the CTIA website. For answers to frequently asked questions about this tool, see FEMA’s Ready.gov website, the FCC website, or the National Weather Service website.
NOAA Weather Radio
A NOAA weather radio provides alerts for weather warnings in your area. With batteries, a radio can work even when the power is out and can be programmed to provide alerts within your local area. Weather radios are a reliable source for severe weather announcements or weather-related emergency information.
Social Media & Traditional Media
MEMA uses Twitter (@MassEMA) and Facebook to provide preparedness tips as well as information about severe weather, emergency situations, and disasters. MEMA also uses social media as a secondary method of alerting.
Traditional local media outlets (such as TV and radio stations) are another source for emergency alerts and information.
2-1-1 is the Commonwealth’s primary telephone information call center. Call 2-1-1 for information about the location of open shelters, transportation or other restrictions due to a declared state of emergency, post disaster assistance, ways to volunteer or donate, or other services you or your family may need. Mass 2-1-1 is a 24/7 resource to connect callers to information about critical health and human services programs.
Local Notification Systems
MEMA urges residents to contact their local Emergency Management Director to find out whether their community uses its own alert and warning system, such as Reverse 911 or Code Red for important local information. Your local official will be able to direct you how to enroll in these notification systems.
Residents can also check if their local public safety agencies (police, fire, emergency management) have social media accounts and if so follow them for local emergency information.
- Outdoor sirens, which are used to alert residents within the nuclear emergency planning zones (EPZs) for Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station and Seabrook Station of any nuclear related incidents.
- A teletypewriter (TTY) device, which allows individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing, or speech-impaired use the telephone to communicate.
- U.S. Coast Guard Marine Safety Broadcasts are used for maritime weather and safety broadcasts.
- MassDOT variable message boards and private sector digital billboards can be used to provide information during emergencies.
Understand the Differences Between Weather Alerts
The National Weather Service issues watches and warnings to alert the public of potentially dangerous weather. It is important to understand the difference between watches and warnings so you know what to do to stay safe.
- A watch means that the weather conditions are favorable for dangerous weather. If a watch is issued, then you should be alert to changing weather conditions.
- A warning means that severe weather is already occurring, or is likely to occur, and that you should take protective actions to stay safe.
Prepare for All Types of Hazards
Residents can be impacted by a range of severe weather, natural hazards, and man-made threats — Learn about the types of emergencies that are likely to impact Massachusetts and how to prepare for and respond to them.