Alerts & Notifications

Is Apple On Board with National Alerting Program?

Apple's new operating system for the iPad and iPhone may include capability to receive Wireless Emergency Alerts through FEMAs Commercial Mobile Alert System.

by Rick Wimberly / June 15, 2012

Are Wireless Emergency Alerts coming to iPhones?  Perhaps so.   When Apple unveiled its new operating system for its iPhone and iPad recently, at least one of the reviewers (Tyler Lee of Ubergizmo) found "Government Alerts".  That appears to be an iOS6 interface for what you and I know as Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) or Commercial Mobile Alerting System (CMAS).

This may answer a question we've been asked many times in the last few weeks by many people, "when are WEAs coming to the iPhone?"  It appears we'll know for sure this fall when the iOS6 operating system is launched to the public.  Apple says the new OS will be available on iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, iPod Touch 4G, iPad 2, and "the new iPad".  Whether this means that people with older iPhones (like me) will be able to start receiving WEA messages once we upgrade our operating system, we don't know for sure. Apple is mum.

But, this appears to be big news.  A number of other manufacturers have already adapted their mobile devices so they receive WEA, the stage has been set for a consistently growing number of people in the US to have capability to receive alerts from local, state, and federal officials through the initiative led by FEMA's Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) program.  

If you want to know if your device is capable of receiving the alerts, you can check your mobile carrier's web site.  It seems that the best way to do so now is a key word search with your carrier's name and the term "wireless emergency alerts".  That will generally take you there.  Or, you can poke around on your phone interface (as people generally do when we start talking about WEAs).  

Meantime, another big event is approaching for IPAWS, and people across the nation are beginning to buzz about it to - the National Weather Service intends to start using CMAS to deliver WEA messages before the end of June.  (See earlier post here.)  So, if a weather warning is issued (except thunderstorm warnings), many people will get a message on their mobile device alert with a unique tone and vibration alerting them so.  

So, there's nice momentum at work here.  Now is the time for local and state authorities to move toward approval to join the National Weather Service so they can issue alerts for imminent threats in the area. (Our website has guidance for following the approval process, or send me an email to and we'll make sure you get your questions answered either by us or someone at FEMA.)

Well, as much as I've written about CMAS/WEA and IPAWS, it's nice to know WEA messages may be coming to my own phone!

All the best,