While emergency alerts on your phone can provide helpful, even life-saving information, there may be reasons why you want to turn them off. Perhaps you frequently receive notices that aren’t important to you (I often get flash flood alerts, even though I live in Manhattan) or believe Amber alerts are simply crime control theater. Or, if you’re in a bad weather area that receives many alerts, maybe you simply are tired of being disturbed while sleeping, at the movies or anywhere else a piercing alarm is definitely not wanted. Or you’re already getting alerts through a weather app and you don’t want duplicate notices.
Fortunately, your cellphone gives you the ability to decide what types of emergency alerts you want to receive. Here’s the information each alert delivers and how to turn off those alerts on your Android phone or iPhone.
The types of emergency alerts
The Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) system is based on an Act of Congress in 2006 that authorized the Federal Communications Commission to create a network that would consolidate information from a variety of federal agencies and disseminate that information to citizens via their cellular devices. The network became fully operational in 2012. Unlike text (SMS) messages, emergency alerts are broadcast to everyone connected to a cell tower, which allows specific geographic targeting to everyone in an area, rather than being sent to individual recipients.
US Government agencies (e.g., the National Weather Service and FEMA), as well as local law safety and law enforcement departments, can issue three types of alerts through WEA:
- Alerts issued by the President of the United States
- Alerts involving imminent threats to the safety of life (which come in two flavors: extreme threats and severe threats)
- AMBER Alerts for abducted children
Extreme warnings include tsunamis, tornados, extreme wind, hurricanes and typhoons. Severe warnings include storm surges, snow squalls, flash floods and dust storms.
Most phones will allow you to turn off each category of alert, except for the Presidential alerts; this restriction was mandated by the 2006 Law. But lest you get too worked up over this last point, the law restricts these texts to emergencies and a Presidential Alert has never been issued.
How to turn off the emergency alerts on your iPhone
- Go to Settings
- Go to Notifications
- Scroll to the bottom of Notifications for the option to turn off Amber Alerts and Emergency Alerts
How to turn off emergency alerts on your Android phone
- Go to Settings
- Got to Apps & Notifications
- Go to Advanced
- Go to Emergency Alerts for the option to turn off Amber Alerts, Extreme Threats and Severe Threats.
The exact steps may vary slightly depending on your Android version and phone manufacturer.
[Image credit: Wireless Emergency Alert via FEMA]