The CTIA says extreme-weather text alerts are set to begin this month. The warnings will be location-based so if you're traveling you'll get an alert for whatever emergency is happening where you are.
The Wireless Emergency Alerts is a free service that does not require consumers to sign up. According to USA Today, alerts will be issued for such life-threatening events as tornadoes, flash floods, hurricanes, typhoons, tsunamis, dust storms, extreme winds, blizzards and ice storms.
"These text alerts will be very brief, under 90 characters," said National Weather Service spokeswoman Susan Buchanan, "and are intended to prompt people to immediately seek additional information through the wide range of weather alert communications available to them, such as the Internet, television, radio or NOAA Weather Radio."
In addition to "imminent threat" warnings for severe weather and earthquakes, WEA can also issue AMBER Alerts for missing children and Presidential Alerts for national emergencies. People can opt out of AMBER and Weather Alerts but not Presidential Alerts.
The alerts don't have anything to do with where the phone was registered or what area code the phone has; the closest cell phone tower will broadcast the warnings to all cell phones in that area.
Most major cellphone carriers such as T-Mobile, AT&T, Sprint, Verizon and US Cellular are all up and running. They expect to have all cellphone carriers on the system soon.