Many of us have received these. Emergency Wireless Alerts. These are the alerts that regardless of your smartphones status, other then being powered off they begin to screach an alert message. These emergency alerts include communications such as “Amber Alerts”, “Major Weather Messages” and now “Public Safety Notifications”.
Last week New York used an Emergency Wireless Alert in respect to the bombing in tehir city and information on the suspect. The alert read, “WANTED: Ahmad Khan Rahami, 28-yr-old male. See media for pic. Call 9-1-1 if seen.”
Emergency Wireless Alerts are becoming more common so what are they exactly?
According to the Federal Communications Commission, these text-like messages let cellphone users in a particular area receive notices about what are deemed critical emergencies. Messages can be about weather threats, missing children or emergencies like a chemical spill.
The wireless industry, the FCC and the Federal Emergency Management Agency started this program in 2012, according to the wireless trade group CTIA. So you can see that these message types have been around for quite some time but have only recently grown in their widespread use.
How Are These Messages Sent?
FEMA must authorize these messages from local, state or federal agencies and forwards them on to wireless carriers.
Messages appear on phones just like texts and are accompanied by a loud alarm. The phone also vibrates, which the FCC says helps people with hearing or vision disabilities. The alerts don’t count as texts, so people on limited text plans won’t get charged extra. Some phones, especially older ones, might not be equipped to receive these messages, though.
The alerts aren’t affected by network congestion and are based on cell tower locations, so if you’re on vacation in California, you won’t get alerts for New York, even if your phone is registered there. The FCC says targeting is typically down to the county level.
Can You Stop These Messages?
The FCC says some alerts can be blocked, if the carrier allows it. However not alerts issued by the president. On iPhones, the setting is under “Notifications.” On Android, look for “Emergency broadcasts” under “Sound,” though your phone maker may have moved that. On Samsung’s Galaxy S7 phone, for instance, the setting is under “Privacy and Emergency.” Hit “Emergency Alerts,” then “More,” then “Settings.
I would suggest that you not block these message types because that can allow us to better help protect each other. Of course if these become over used – that’s another story.
Are There Any Technical Problems With Emergency Messages?
The current technology supports only text and 90 characters. This can lead to a slightly awkward phrases like “See media for pic” of Rahami, rather than a link to a photo or a photo itself being sent.
The FCC has proposed permitting longer messages, embedded links or possibly even images like maps. The wireless industry has said it is wary of including links because they could lead to network congestion or confused customers.
Wireless Emergency Messages – A Natural Evolution
Emergency Wireless Messages are a natural evolution in the way we communicate during emergency events and for the most part I applaud the government for stepping in here. This is not very different then receiving emergency messages over our televisions which has been happening since the 1950’s.