The Commercial Mobile Alert System (CMAS) is the system interface to the Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) service that wireless carriers are rolling out across the nation in 2012. CMAS is a partnership between FEMA, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and wireless carriers, to enhance public safety. The rules for CMAS are published by the FCC at 47 CFR 10.  

CMAS allows public safety authorities to use FEMA’s IPAWS Open Platform for Emergency Networks (IPAWS-OPEN) to send geographically targeted, text-like Wireless Emergency Alerts to the public. WEAs will relay Presidential, AMBER, and Imminent Threat alerts to mobile phones using cell broadcast technology that will not get backlogged during times of emergency when wireless voice and data services are highly congested.

CMAS/WEA complements the existing Emergency Alert System (EAS) which sends warnings to television and radio via broadcast, cable, satellite, and wireline communications pathways.

It is important to note that CMAS alerts (WEAs) are separate and distinct from Georgetown University’s HOYAlert messages, which are owned and sent by officials from Georgetown University.  WEAs use a unique ring tone and vibration to signal that an alert has arrived. The unique vibration, which distinguishes the alert from a regular text message, is particularly helpful to people with hearing or vision-related disabilities. Alerts will automatically “pop up” on the mobile device screen and will be limited to 90 characters.  WEAs will not preempt calls in progress.  In addition, individuals will be able to opt-out of Imminent Threat or AMBER alerts.   Individuals will not be able to opt-out of Presidential alerts.

For more information on CMAS, please visit the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s CMAS/WEA information page or CTIA-The Wireless Association® Consumer Info website.