Modern smartphones have the ability to display emergency alerts pushed out by government agencies. These include notifications about dangerous weather, unsafe situations or Amber Alerts for missing children and seniors. Carriers must enable the features on specific phones and until today, iPhone users on AT&T were not invited to the party. Now, AT&T is pushing out an update that enables governmental and Amber alerts on iPhone 4S and 5 phones runing iOS 6.1 or later. When the update comes, you’ll see a notification on your iPhone’s screen that reads: Carrier Settings Updated New settings required for your device have been installed. Your only option is an OK button — this is not an update you can decline. You can, however, turn off most of the updates if you prefer not to see them. Go into Settings > Notifications and scroll to the bottom. You’ll see separate toggles for Government and Amber alerts.
The FCC provides some details on its website about the types of alerts that are delivered through what’s called the Wireless Emergency Alert service, or WEA:
Pre-authorized national, state or local government may send emergency alerts regarding public safety emergencies, such as evacuation orders or shelter in place orders due to severe weather, a terrorist threat or chemical spill, to WEA.
And . . .
Alerts from WEA cover only critical emergency situations. Consumers will receive only three types of alerts:
- Alerts issued by the President
- Alerts involving imminent threats to safety or life
- Amber Alerts
You can turn off everything but the “alerts issues by the President”. And you may want to leave on the “imminent threats to safety or life” alerts, since they often involve bad weather. They were used during the recent tornadoes in the Midwest. And it is, after all, hurricane season here in the Gulf states . . .
If you’re in an office or some other place where a lot of people have smartphones, you’ve likely heard a bunch of alerts go off at once. That’s the WEA system at work. Now, AT&T iPhone users will be among those joining the cacophony.
And if your iPhone isn’t yet running on iOS 6.1 or later, you’ll get the alert the next time you upgrade….
Unless you choose to be a weird loner with no phone and no social media, you likely have a standard monitored phone with the strange hidden ability to get special alerts from the president of the USA. How cool is that?