Everyone knows what the emergency broadcasting system sounds like, but they might not expect to hear those alerts coming from their smart phones.
The system, which is run by the federal government, was established to alert citizens to severe weather or other important safety information. Starting this week, that same type of information will be sent directly to smart phones -- and users don't have to do anything to start receiving them.
Nearly all of the cell phone providers are on board with the new program, which will send alerts about severe weather, Amber alerts and messages from the president.
Consumers can opt out of the first two alerts, but not presidential messages -- though the Department of Homeland Security hopes no one will opt out of any, saying the system is designed to keep citizens safe no matter where they are.
Since very few people go anywhere without a phone these days, it seems like a logical avenue for sending emergency messages, but only smart phones will be able to receive the messages. They'll also need to have up-to-date software to access the automatic, free app.
DHS, FEMA and the National Weather Service are the main players in what's being called Wireless Emergency Alerts, which are location-specific using cell phone towers to target cell phones in the affected areas.
The government says it is not collecting any information from the phone as part of the program, and doesn't need specific numbers to send out the messages.