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Fairfax County, Virginia
Fairfax County

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What is CEAN?
  2. What is a CEAN account?
  3. How does CEAN work?
  4. Who sends out the alerts?
  5. What types of alerts will be sent?
  6. Will my cell phone work?
  7. What is text messaging and how do I sign up for it?
  8. How many devices/e-mail addresses can I sign up?
  9. How do I prevent SPAM filters from blocking my alerts?

What is CEAN?
CEAN is a software application used to send emergency alerts, notifications and updates to your cell phone, pager, BlackBerry, PDA and/or e-mail account. In the event of an emergency, such as a fire or September 11th- type attack, your organization will be able to send important alerts and updates right to your cell phone or mobile device. All you have to do is sign up for a CEAN account.

Click to register now!

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What is a CEAN Account
Each person may sign up for a CEAN account. You can add multiple devices (cell phones, pagers, PDAs) to a CEAN account. Alerts can be sent to all devices listed in your CEAN account.

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How does CEAN work?
In an emergency situation an alert will be sent by your organization's CEAN administrator and you will receive several text messages on your cell phone or mobile device. Read these messages promptly and follow the instructions.

Additional instructions may follow throughout the emergency situation so keep your phone near you. Even if the cell phones are busy, the messages should still come through to your phone.

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Who sends out alerts?
Your organization has designated several people to send out alerts. These alerts may go out to everyone or selected groups of individuals, depending on the type of alert.

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What types of alerts will be sent?
Alert types may include life safety, fire, weather, accidents involving utilities or roadways, team activation notifications, or disaster notification such as a terrorist attack. A few examples of the types of messages that can be sent through CEAN are:

Emergency Situations:

  • Notify employees, and/or citizens of the location of the nearest emergency shelter, available bed space, hours of operation during a crisis;
  • Notify employees/citizens of available evacuation routes during an emergency;
  • Activate special teams within the community, based upon an event

Precautionary Warnings:

  • Severe weather warnings;
  • Change in the Homeland Security Advisory System terror alert level
  • Pre-cautionary evacuation order if on high alert

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Will my cell phone work?
CEAN uses the text messaging (SMS network) feature of your cell phone to deliver alerts. The alerts come across like a page on a pager. ALL cell phone carriers, and paging companies, offer text messaging. Nearly all phones purchased within the past few years are text messaging capable. If you are unsure, contact your carrier to ask about your phone and text messaging.

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What is text messaging and how do I sign up for it?
Text messages are short messages sent to your phone, similar to receiving a page. Each message contains between 100 and 160 characters, or about 10 words, depending upon your carrier. An example of a text message is the notification you receive on your phone when you have new voicemail.

Many carriers activate the service automatically. You should check with your carrier to make sure your text messaging is active. See the carrier matrix for a list of carriers and contact information.

Good links to learn how to read text messages on your phone include:

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How many devices/e-mail addresses can I add to my account?

You may have two devices and two e-mail addresses for your CEAN account.

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How do I prevent SPAM filters from blocking my alerts?
Internet Service Providers (ISPs) utilize various methods to prevent unsolicited commercial e-mail (Junk mail or spam) from being delivered to users' mailboxes. Some of these methods may mistakenly classify CEAN alerts as such and not deliver the alert to the recipient. Each ISP has different set of steps to follow to assure these alerts get delivered directly to the users' mailboxes. Typically the sender's domain name must be added to an address book or 'safe list'. To assure you receive CEAN alert e-mail please add to your address book or safe list. If you still have trouble, please contact CEAN support via e-mail at

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