Wireless tsunami alerts for some Alaskans but GCI upgrades ongoing

first_imgYesterday’s early morning magnitude 7.9 earthquake in the Gulf of Alaska prompted emergency tsunami alerts that popped up on thousands of Alaskans’ cell phones.Listen nowThe National Tsunami Warning Center’s alerts even went to phones in Anchorage, where there was no threat of a tsunami. That’s because communities in the same alert zone, like Whittier, could have been struck by a tsunami.But another group of Alaska cell phone customers around the state did not get the message via the Wireless Emergency Alert network: subscribers to GCI.Federal Communications Commission guidelines have gotten the largest cellular companies in the U.S., like AT&T and Verizon, to upgrade their systems to deliver the alerts, but GCI might not be sending those messages until next year, not automatically anyway.GCI spokesperson Heather Handyside said that’s because the company is among roughly 100 smaller wireless providers that needed more time.“The longer deadline is because this is a very complicated, date-intensive process that involves tens of thousands of wireless phone numbers and geolocating them, so it’s just very complicated,” Handyside said.A 10-person team has been working on the upgrades for about six months, Handyside said. GCI plans to be integrated with the Wireless Emergency Alert system by May of 2019, she said.In the meantime, GCI offers its more than 100,000 wireless customers an app to get emergency alerts. It can be found wherever you get your smartphone apps by searching “GCI alerts.”last_img read more