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Will your phone alert of a tornado warning? What phones can do it and how to configure it

If you live in an area with tornadoes you may want to consider enabling Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) on your phone.

How to set up iPhone and Android tornado warnings
Sylveon Gamer JakeSylveon Gamer Jake via REUTERS

At the start of this week central parts of the United States faced severe storms with snow, wind and heavy rain following a period of extreme weather last week. There have been nine tornado reports in the past few days and residents in affected areas are advised to keep up to date with developments.

The Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) system plays key role in the nation’s emergency preparedness and response effort, sharing messages about everything from dangerous weather to missing children.

The WEA system “allows customers who own compatible mobile devices to receive geographically targeted, text-like messages alerting them of imminent threats to safety in their area.”

However some users will need to manually set up the system on their phone to get alerts about tornadoes and other events. Here’s what you need to know…

How to set up WEA on iPhone

1. Open your phone’s Settings application

2. Select Notifications

3. Scroll to the bottom and turn on the device’s Emergency Alerts setting

How to set up WEA on Android

1. Open your phone’s Settings application

2. Select Apps & Notifications

3. Select Emergency Alerts setting and confirm that you want to receive the results

What alerts will you get from WEA?

Bear in mind that activating your device’s WEA setting will ensure that you receive all emergency alerts in your geographical location, not just tornado alerts. When your phone is in a location with extreme weather or any other threat it will vibrate and play a loud emergency tone.

Weather alerts are by far the most common of these alerts but even these will only be issued when there is a potential threat to life. In addition to tornado warnings, the WEA system alerts recipients to flash floods and severe thunderstorms.

Typically, mobile alerts are reserved for sudden and short-term emergency events that may otherwise catch residents by surprise.


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