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New emergency alert system put to work - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

New emergency alert system put to work

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BURLINGTON, Vt. -

Maria Germano got an unexpected alert on her cell phone Saturday. "I did receive it while I was driving and it was very helpful," she said.

The emergency alert popped up during a flash-flooding event. "It definitely showed me that I needed to be aware of what I was driving into -- and I did. I drove into some areas that were getting inundated with water," she said.
     
The text-like alerts are automatically sent to many newer phones during potentially dangerous situations. The free service started in our area about a month ago. "The FCC, FEMA and homeland security, as well as the weather service, have wireless emergency alerts for different threats," said Scott Whittier with the National Weather Service in Burlington. He says the alerts pop-up during flash-flood, tornado, blizzard, ice storm warnings and other warnings.

"It's not just gonna be weather alerts. Local communities, state officials will be able to do amber alerts," Whittier said.

The alerts may also be issued for some local and national emergencies. They are based on phone owners location relative to cellular towers. Once you cross a certain threshold that's within the reach of a cell tower, then your phone will be activated on that.

Many who get the alerts are grateful for the heads up. "Technology, as annoying as it is sometimes, it's nice to have. Especially with the storms Vermont is having -- some serious flooding," said Shawn Beede of Essex.

While owners can opt out of most of the wireless emergency alerts, Maria Germano says she won't be doing that anytime soon. "I think it's a great thing. The noise definitely startled me, but it was really informative because I did drive into some serious weather," she said.

The hope is wireless emergency alerts end up saving lives.

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