How Emergency Messages Send To Cell Phones - ABC FOX MONTANA NEWS, WEATHER, SPORTS - KTMF/KWYB

How Emergency Messages Send To Cell Phones

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BOZEMAN - You might have been surprised to get messages on your cell phone when two Amber Alerts were issued in recent weeks.

Those messages known as "wireless emergency alerts" are a part of a nation-wide system that is sent to cell phones in a designated area.

A wireless emergency alert is part of the nationwide emergency alert system. It is a not a text message that a person can subscribe to. It's a voluntarily service provided by cell phone carriers, limited to 90 characters.

"When those messages are generated, anybody that's associated with a cell tower in the affected area, their phone will go off with the message," said Patrick Lonergan, Gallatin County Emergency Manager. "Those messages allow us to reach everyone in the area and everyone traveling through the area."

Where a person receives a wireless emergency alert depends on their cell phone carrier, a person's cell phone may go off in one area, but not in another area. The message will be sent for three different reasons.

"An Amber Alert, a presidential message or some sort of emergency alert message that has life threat," said Lonergan.

In Montana, the smallest defined area is a county.

"If a message is designated for Gallatin County, every cell phone associated from a cell tower in Gallatin County will go off with that message," said Lonergan.

The message is sent out by different organizations depending on what sort of incident it is.

"Amber Alerts like we've seen the last couple months are generated by the Montana Department of Justice. Weather related incidents are sent out by the weather service, said Lonergan. "Presidential messages come from the Federal Government."

Bozeman resident, Camille Erickson has received both Amber Alerts sent out statewide over the last couple weeks.

"I was surprised and very impressed that the state of Montana was on top of that type of thing," said Camille Erickson, Bozeman resident. "I thought it was cool that they could send out messages for people that needed help."

She said she heard multiple phones go off at the same time.

"I heard everybody's phone go off at the same time because our bedrooms are all right next to each other on the top floor," said Erickson.

Patrick said the process is still being established in the United States so a smaller area can be alerted.

The process has been used in the State of Montana for about a year. For more information on the system, click here.

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