Technology | local | Environment

Storm Spurs Portland's First City-Wide Wireless Emergency Alert

OPB | Feb. 10, 2014 4:09 p.m. | Updated: Feb. 11, 2014 8:11 a.m. | Portland

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Many cellphones in the Portland area went off Sunday morning with an Wireless Emergency Alert. A message on phones urged city residents to stay indoors and not travel due to ice. It was the first time the city had used the system.

The Wireless Emergency Alert message distributed to Portland-area cell phones on Sunday.

The Wireless Emergency Alert message distributed to Portland-area cell phones on Sunday.

The message was sent to cellphone users within range of a cell tower in the area, but not everyone received a message. That’s because some older cellphones don’t have the required operating system.

Carmen Merlo, with the Portland Bureau of Emergency Management, told OPB’s Think Out Loud that newer phones are required to enable the alert system.

“Most older phones are not equipped with this capability,” Merlo said. “So if you have an older phone or not a smartphone, you likely would not have received the message. The system or technology is rather new.”

Merlo said that by next year all cellphone carriers will be required to transmit alert messages.

Mobile users can turn the alerts on or off using their phone settings.

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