Did your phone just get a blizzard warning emergency alert for Nemo that looks the above? Or maybe if you have an iPhone the emergency alert looked more like:

It’s courtesy of the Wireless Emergency Alerts service, a program by the federal government rolled out in the spring of last year. As USA Today reported:

The Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) service, which begins this month, is free, and consumers won’t have to sign up. Warnings will be location-based: If you’re traveling, you’ll get an alert for whatever emergency is happening where you are.

“Wireless carriers representing more than 97% of subscribers voluntarily agreed to develop and offer free, geographically targeted wireless emergency alerts,” said Amy Storey, spokeswoman for the CTIA— The Wireless Association. AT&T, Cellcom, Cricket, Sprint Nextel, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular and Verizon Wireless are participating.

The potentially life saving alerts are sent out for tornadoes, hurricanes, tsunamis, blizzards, etc. You may have gotten one during Hurricane Sandy.

For those of us super hooked in to Twitter all day, having the government text you hours after you no doubt heard about Nemo may seem silly. But this kind of information can in many cases save lives, and not in small numbers. Not all such disasters are predictable (earthquakes are famously not) but hurricanes and blizzards are. And it’s awesome that everyone involved is collaborating to bring them to your phone.

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