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Wireless Emergency Alerts FAQ

  1. 1) What devices support Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA)?

    U.S. Cellular® has several WEA-capable devices available to support Wireless Emergency Alerts. Review the list of WEA-capable devices.

  2. 2) What does this alert look like and how does it work?

    Read more about how Wireless Emergency Alerts work.

  3. 3) Are there charges for WEA?

    There is no charge for WEA and they do not impact voice, messaging or data usage.

  4. 4) What triggers WEA?

    There are four classifications of alerts:
    Presidential: issued by the U.S. government. Sent to notify recipients of any national communication from the president: this is the highest priority of the alert types and cannot be suppressed.
    Imminent Threats: issued by local, state, and federal officials or government agencies. Sent to provide notification of emergencies where life or property is at risk: Imminent Threats are categorized as Extreme or Severe.
    AMBER or BLUE alerts: issued by law enforcement as part of the search for an abducted child or law enforcement officer whose life is in danger.
    Public Safety Alerts: issued by authorized local or state Emergency Managers. Sent as an essential public safety advisory that prescribes one or more actions likely to save lives and safeguard property. These alert types may include Public Safety advisory messages such as "shelter in place" or "boil water" warnings.

  5. 5) Will I receive alerts while traveling?

    WEA are enabled throughout U.S. Cellular's coverage area and are broadcast to the affected areas. You may receive a WEA when roaming on another carrier's network that supports WEA within the 50 states. We cannot guarantee service on another carrier's network.

  6. 6) Do I need to select areas where I want to receive alerts?

    Unlike programs that are based on customer-selected zip codes, area codes or other designated filters, WEA are broadcast to all compatible devices within the affected area.

  7. 7) Do I need GPS to receive an alert?

    No. Neither subscriber information nor GPS is used to broadcast the alerts. Alerts are sent to WEA-capable wireless devices in the affected geographical area.

  8. 8) What is the difference between WEA and similar types of alerts I receive?

    Short Message Service (SMS) alerts from other organizations are limited in nature and are not authenticated through FEMA. Only authorized local, state, and federal officials can send WEA regarding critical emergencies, such as a tornado or a terrorist threat. Unlike SMS or Multimedia Service (MMS) messages, wireless emergency alerts use cell broadcast technology and are transmitted regardless of the amount of traffic on the network.

  9. 9) Can I unsubscribe to these alerts?

    You may change settings within your device to opt out of Imminent Threats, AMBER/ BLUE Alerts, and Public Safety Alerts, but you may not opt out of Presidential Alerts. Refer to your device manufacturer's website for the full user guide containing operating instructions and information.

  10. 10) Why did I receive wireless emergency alerts when I have blocked text or picture messaging from my account?

    Though WEA appear similar to text (SMS) messages or picture (MMS) messages, they are actually not delivered via SMS or MMS. They are government-broadcast messages and are therefore not blocked. However, there is no charge for WEA, and they do not affect your voice, messaging or data usage.

  11. 11) An alert was distributed in my area, but I did not receive it. Why?

    In some cases, factors outside of U.S. Cellular's control (e.g., a device not powered on, local terrain issues, technical difficulties, etc.) could prevent the delivery of WEA. Therefore, delivery of WEA is not guaranteed and alerts may not be received in weak signal areas.

  12. 12) Will I receive WEA if I am on a call or in a data session when an alert is issued?

    If you are in the affected area, you will receive the alert without your call or data session being disrupted. The alert should be presentable as soon as available on your device. Some legacy devices will receive the alert when your call or data session has concluded if the alert period has not expired.

  13. 13) Will I receive WEA if my phone is turned off when they're issued?

    You will only receive the WEA if you turn your phone on before the alert period has expired. The same is true if your phone is in airplane mode.

  14. 14) Who should I contact with questions or for additional information about the WEA that I received?

    You should contact the alert sender with any questions about that specific alert. U.S. Cellular is not responsible for the content of any WEA and has no information beyond what is included in the message. The alerts originate from local, state or federal agencies.

  15. 15) Can I disable the audible tone for incoming alerts?

    Yes. Audible tones can be disabled in the WEA settings or by turning off the master volume.

  16. 16) How can I tell the difference between an alert and a text message?

    WEA have a unique sound and vibration that distinguish them from text messages. They also have a distinct look.

  17. 17) Will I receive test alerts similar to the Emergency Alert System used with radio and television?

    No. Wireless carriers are required to participate in monthly tests of the system; however, customers will not receive the monthly test Wireless Emergency Alerts. Customers will have the opportunity to "Opt-In" and receive State and Local emergency management test alerts once available.

  18. 18) Will rebooting my phone change my alert settings?

    WEA settings will not change if the phone is rebooted; however, they will change if the phone is reset back to the manufacturer's settings.

  19. 19) Why did I receive multiple alerts?

    WEA-capable devices should receive an alert only once; however, similar messages may be issued within the alert period or your device may receive a duplicate alert if you are roaming on another carrier's network.

  20. 20) Do all local, state and federal government agencies participate in sending WEA?

    Not all local, state or federal agencies are authorized to send WEA messages. Customers can check with their local government to learn which agencies are authorized.

  21. 21) Why did I receive an alert when my account has been suspended or cancelled?

    WEA are a public safety service offered at no charge and are independent of your voice, messaging or data usage. As a result, you will receive WEA regardless of your account status. They are broadcast to customers with a WEA-capable device in the affected area.

  22. 22) I received an alert that I want to share with others. How can I do that?

    WEA cannot be forwarded, replied to, copied or edited. They will be archived with your other messages until you delete them.

  23. 23) Why was WEA developed and what is its history?

    In 2006, Congress passed the Warning, Alert and Response Network Act, which allows wireless carriers to broadcast emergency alerts to their customers on a voluntary basis. By the direction of Congress, the act was implemented "to ensure that all Americans have the capability to receive timely and accurate alerts, warnings and critical information regarding disasters and other emergencies, regardless of what communication technologies they use."