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Flood Warning Triggers Wireless Emergency Alert System

If you had an unexpected wake-up call around one this morning, you're not alone.

That's when many cell phones sent out an alert that the National Weather Service had just issued a Flash Flood Warning.

Fred Rion, head of the Monroe County Office of Emergency Management, says the Wireless Emergency Alert System is a useful tool.                   

"Let's say you're close to a stream or something that floods. The rain was coming down pretty heavy last night. I think it's good to have an additional warning system."

Emergency management officials or local law enforcement will determine when and where cell phone alerts go out. They can also include Amber Alerts, or messages about evacuations or other action triggered by a local or national emergency.

If you did not get an alert on your cell phone this morning, you may have a device that is not compatible with the alert system.  "Certain devices are compatible with emergency alerts and others are not. Most of the newer ones are. If you go to our website, there's information on these wireless emergency alerts and there's a list of the compatible devices on there and you can see whether yours is on there," said John O’Malley, spokesman for Verizon Wireless. 

Verizon says you can set your device to opt out of "Imminent Danger" or Amber Alerts, but not presidential alerts triggered by a national emergency.

Your cell phone will not sound an alert if you are traveling outside of your local geographic area and the emergency is at home.

Beth Adams joined WXXI as host of Morning Edition in 2012 after a more than two-decade radio career. She was the longtime host of the WHAM Morning News in Rochester. Her career also took her from radio stations in Elmira, New York, to Miami, Florida.