GCI Providing Wireless Emergency Alerts to Customers
Joins growing list of carriers across nation
ANCHORAGE—From earthquakes to tsunamis, Alaskans are no strangers to the prospect of natural disasters. GCI wireless customers will now receive enhanced messages through the national Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) system, allowing them to be alerted of imminent threats to safety or life.
WEA is a national program that was established by the FCC to warn the public about dangerous weather, missing children and other critical situations. WEA alerts are generated by local, state and federal agencies. Telecommunications companies opt-in to participate in the WEA program.
GCI launched its WEA project in 2011 with the GCI Alerts app. For the past year, GCI has been working implement network and device updates that will enable Alaska customers to receive enhanced messages directly to their device through the national WEA system. Results from a network test GCI conducted on August 15 confirmed that GCI customers in WEA service areas will now receive WEA alerts. The alerts will display in a format similar to a text message and will appear directly on their device without the need to download or open any application.
“GCI is proud to help our government partners get crucial public safety information to Alaskans,” said Heather Handyside, senior director, GCI Corporate Communications. “Clear and effective communication is especially important during times of crisis and GCI wants to ensure our government partners have the access they need to provide the public with important, and possibly life-saving, information.”
In addition to WEA notifications, GCI supports the delivery of emergency messaging through the Emergency Alert System via broadcast over-the-air and on cable systems throughout the state.
The alerts are free and will not impact voice, text or data usage. GCI customers with alert-capable devices will automatically receive WEA alerts. GCI customers with an iPhone are required to update their carrier settings and may have already received a message from Apple notifying them of the available update. GCI urges customers using iPhones to update the carrier settings on their phones if they have not already done so.
WEA alerts are geographically targeted text messages sent directly to customers to communicate critical, emergency situations. The alerts are sent through the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Integrated Public Alert and Warning System to participating wireless carriers, which then push the alert to mobile devices in the affected area. Alert-capable devices in the alert zone will receive an alert—even if they are roaming or visiting from another state—regardless if they are a GCI customer.
“Wireless carriers participate in WEA voluntarily so not all wireless companies offer this feature, but GCI supports the program because of our commitment to enhance public safety and emergency preparedness in the state of Alaska,” said Handyside.
The successful August 15 test is a major milestone for the project that provides service to more than 95% of Alaskans, including GCI customers living in remote communities that receive 4G LTE wireless service over satellite. For a list of Alaska communities not served by WEA visit https://www.gci.com/.
GCI is the only Alaska-based carrier to provide enhanced WEA messages.