AT&T is making plans to send emergency alerts to its customers, specifically those who own an iPhone 4S or 5. On Friday, AT&T made the announcement via their consumer blog, with some customers running iOS 6.1 already receiving the updates. Some of the alerts will include AMBER alerts to notify the public of missing children, emergency weather alerts, and even Presidential Alerts, which are sent directly from the President’s office.
The alerts are geographically based, so AT&T customers will receive alerts for local threats. Apple already has a system in place for sending out emergency alerts, which notifies users of local flood advisories, extreme weather conditions, and other local threats.
During Hurricane Sandy, customers in the New York City area received alerts to evacuate or remain cautious of their surroundings. This is why messages from both the carrier and Apple are very helpful. The United States has had a number of major disasters in the last year and a half, including Hurricane Sandy and the tornados in Oklahoma. In recent months, the inlclusion of these alert systems in smartphones have become increasingly important.
These are government-issued safety messages that include AMBER Alerts, emergency alerts – such as man-made or natural disasters, and Presidential alerts.
Wireless Emergency Alerts are part of the FCC’s CMAS program and are mandated by law. You may turn off alerts (except for Presidential alerts) if you choose. Go to Settings > Notifications > Turn On/Off.
When the software update is delivered to your phone, you will see a message that states “Carrier Settings Update: new settings required for your device have been installed”. After that, your iPhone 5 or 4S will receive all Wireless Emergency Alerts by default.
Any emergency alerts sent from AT&T will not be charged against a subscriber’s mobile text or data plans, and the carrier has mentioned that although AMBER alerts and other emergency alerts can be turned off, the Presidential Alerts cannot be disabled. This is for extreme situations such as a national emergency, that affects the general public.