Cell phones are getting into the emergency alert business.
You may have noticed alerts popping up on your mobile devices during this weekend's snowstorm. The alerts are part of a nationwide program, but they don't come to everyone.
The alerts come regardless of your carrier. It's a new government partnership with mobile carriers, allowing instant notification during major events. The program began in 2012, so that may explain why your phone doesn't get them.
The notifications come on both regular and smart phones, but every carrier is not treated equal when it comes to availability.
"There's three basic types of alerts. There's Presidential alerts, Amber Alerts and the weather-type alerts," Stefan Tonjes with Verizon Wireless said.
The wireless emergency alert system was set up last April by FEMA, the FCC and most wireless providers. Cell carriers do not create the messages; they come from government agencies, the Center for Missing and Exploited Children and the National Weather Service.
Because the system is so new, not all phones will allow them. And how many do varies by carrier. According to company websites, AT&T offers around 10 compatible phones, Sprint just over ten, while Verizon offers nearly 40.
"If there's been phones released since then, the chances of them having that capability are higher than chances of the ones manufactured prior to that, so you may have models manufactured prior to that that now do have the availability," Tonjes said.
The messages use a different kind of technology than text messages. They will only be delivered to people only in the affected area.
To activate the alerts, or to check if your phone accepts them, look in your settings menu.