SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - The San Diego County Sheriff's Department and Office of Emergency Services will now send Wireless Emergency Alerts to cell phone users in San Diego County. The alerts will be free for cell phone users and be limited to 90 characters of text or less.

County Board of Supervisors Chairman Greg Cox and Sheriff Bill Gore announced the County's plans to use the Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) system at a news conference Monday.

The County Office of Emergency Services recently gained the ability to use the new federal system. With peak fire season ahead, county officials plan to issue the Wireless Emergency Alerts if needed.

The WEA system is overseen by FEMA, the Federal Communications Commission, and the major wireless carriers. In August, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children used the system to issue an Amber Alert after Hannah Anderson was abducted. That first local use of WEA for an Amber Alert caused some public confusion. County officials are launching a public education program because they say it will be critical to its effectiveness in a disaster.

There are three different kinds of alerts:

Presidential Alerts: Alerts issued by the President or a designee;

Imminent Threat Alerts: Alerts that include severe man-made or natural disasters, such as hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, etc., where an imminent threat to life or property exists

AMBER Alerts: Alerts that meet the U.S. Department of Justice's criteria to help law enforcement search for and locate an abducted child.