September is national preparedness month. It's a great time to make sure that during an emergency you have multiple ways to stay informed about what’s going on.
Not all emergency alerts provide the same information so it’s important to understand the types of alerts out there and what they provide.
- Peak Alerts: These local alerts inform you about situations such as man-made disasters, hazardous materials incidents, missing persons, crime, or neighborhood/business evacuation notifications. You can sign-up for up to five locations (for example: your home, work, school) and choose to receive them by phone call, text, or email. You must sign up in order to receive these alerts.
- Wireless Emergency Alerts: These alerts are sent to you via a mobile device. They can be sent by state and local public safety officials, the National Weather Service*, The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and the President of the United States. There are three alert categories: imminent threat, AMBER, and presidential. You do not need to sign up for this service. WEA allows government officials to send emergency alerts to all subscribers with WEA-capable devices if their wireless carrier participates in the program. You do need to make sure your mobile device has the alerts settings turned on.
- FEMA App: This app allows you to receive real-time alerts from the National Weather Service for up to five locations (counties). You’ll also find emergency safety tips, shelter information, disaster recovery centers, online disaster assistance, and FEMA’s disaster reporter.
*Severe weather warnings sent through WEA include: tsunami, tornado, flash flood, hurricane, typhoon, dust storm, and extreme wind. They DO NOT INCLUDE severe thunderstorm warnings. Severe thunderstorms can produce dangerous hail like the storm that hit the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo recently.
A NOAA Weather Radio can help you monitor dangerous storms in your area. It broadcasts alerts when there is severe and dangerous conditions before they arrive so you have time to prepare. There are lots of different types of weather radios. FEMA suggests looking for these features when you purchase one.
- Alarm tone - this feature allows you to set the radio to silent but will produce a tone to alert you to severe weather.
- Specific Area Message Encoding (SAME) - This feature will allow you to filter out alerts that don’t affect your area so you only hear alerts that affect you.
- Hand Crank or Battery Operated: The power can go out during severe weather so it’s important to make sure your weather radio has alternate power sources.
- Tunable to all NWS frequencies: There are seven frequencies in the VHF public service band that your weather radio should be able to pick up.
- For those with a hearing impairment - A feature that allows radios to connect the alarms to other attention-getting devices such as personal computers and text printers.
Social media is another tool to help you stay informed during an emergency. It's important to understand that because of how social media platforms work, you won't see every update in your feed, or you might see it much later. Still, social media can get you information fast, and make it easy to share with others.
- list of City social media accounts, including police, fire, and traffic
TV and Radio
Local TV and radio news stations often will provide coverage of local emergencies or disasters. Many stations have their own news app that can alert you to breaking news and severe weather. Check with your preferred media outlet to see what they provide.
Don’t forget that power outages can occur during an emergency and can last for days or even weeks in some cases. Make sure you have a plan to power devices like cell phones and radios that you depend on for information and emergency alerts.