EAGLEVILLE, Tenn. - A new nationwide Wireless Emergency Alert system was put to the test on Sunday as flash flooding and even some tornado warnings threatened parts of Middle Tennessee.
The alerts are loud and meant to get your attention.
"I didn't know what it was. I'd never gotten one before, so that was the first one I've ever got, but I certainly didn't get a tornado one. I got a flash flood alert at 10:00 a.m. but nothing about a tornado," explained Wayne Banner whose house in Eagleville was hit by an EF-0 tornado on Sunday.
The free messages are sent out automatically. Cell phone users do not have to sign up for this service, but some users have the option of opting out. Although some cell phone users may be able to opt out of these warnings, Emergency Management strongly discourages this. The WEAs are not intended to take the place of gathering further information from other weather sources.
The alerts they include are:
1) Presidential Alert—issued by the President of the United States in case of nationwide emergency
2) Imminent Threat—issued by National Weather Service. For Tennessee this would include such warnings as tornadoes, flash floods, blizzards or ice storms.
3) AMBER Alert—issued by law enforcement to share information about a child abduction
"It's all about using the technology that's out there now to raise awareness of severe weather hazards," says Tom Johnstone from the National Weather Service.
Johnstone says the service is based only on the physical location of your phone, so if you are visiting Memphis and there's a flash flood warning issued for Nashville, you won't get it.
"All of the major carriers are now carrying these messages but not every phone is capable of displaying them," he explained.