What is a Commercial Mobile Alert System?

Definition: A Commercial Mobile Alert System (CMAS), also known as Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA), is a program launched in the United States designed to broadcast emergency alerts to participating wireless providers who further distribute the alerts to their customers using text messages. Consequently, CMAS has captured significant interest from governments worldwide as an effective means for emergency alert services, including EU-Alert (Europe), CMAS/WEA (USA), National Message (Israel), LAT-Alert (Chile) as well as the Earthquake Tsunami Warning System (Japan).


Commercial Mobile Alert Systems explained

A Commercial Mobile Alert System (CMAS) is a Public Warning System developed for the delivery of multiple, concurrent warning notifications. It provides the public with important information during emergencies and other hazardous situations by delivering critical and time-sensitive information to mobile devices.

CMAS uses the same basic technology that a cell phone utilizes for normal communications with cell phone towers, but does not rely on SMS alerts which would overload the cellular network and cause normal communications to be disrupted. Although the system is efficient and well-developed in terms of transmission (and does not require the user to register or activate features), CMAS is only supported by more modern cell phones. This means that people in remote areas or who are less technically inclined would be less likely to receive mobile alerts from the system. As such, Utimaco uses a proprietary implementation to incorporate the required capabilities into a SIM that is compatible with most phones.

What does CMAS mean? 

A Commercial Mobile Alert System (CMAS) has the following key features:

  • Emergency Notifications: CMASs are used to send alerts for different types of emergencies, such as:
    • Imminent Threat Alerts to life and property - severe weather events like tornadoes, wildfires, hurricanes, or flash floods
    • AMBER Alerts to share information about abducted children, and 
    • Presidential Alerts - used in the event of nationwide emergencies.
  • Geographically Targeted: CMASs have the critical ability to target specific geographic areas. They are sent exclusively to mobile devices within the affected region, ensuring that people in the immediate vicinity of the emergency receive the notification.
  • Distinctive Alert Tone and Vibration: To stand out from regular text messages or notifications, Commercial Mobile Alert System’s utilize a unique attention-grabbing sound and vibration pattern.
  • Multilingual Support: Depending on the device and network capabilities, CMASs can be sent in multiple languages, ensuring broader accessibility for different language speakers.
  • No Opt-In Required: Unlike commercial alerts or other mobile messaging services, CMASs do not rely on users opting in or subscribing. They are automatically sent to all capable mobile devices within the targeted area, meaning anyone with a compatible device and in the affected region will receive the alert.
  • Compatibility and Accessibility: Most modern smartphones and wireless carriers support CMAS technology. Users typically have the option to enable or disable these alerts in their device settings, allowing them to customize which types of alerts they wish to receive.

Commercial Mobile Alert Systems are an essential part of a government emergency alerting infrastructure, designed to keep the public informed and safe during critical situations. 

Utimaco provides a public warning suite of products that cater for governments, enterprises, and other entities.

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