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Telecommunications Tech Blog July 2013

Cell Phone Companies (AT&T is first) are forcing you to get Emergency Weather & Government
notifications at all times of the day and night - unless you know how to turn it off...


By Mike Sandman  •

In June (2013) AT&T started sending iPhone and some iPad customers with iOS6 or later a "Carrier Update" that turned on Emergency Weather & Government notifications.

For me, because of the strange weather in June, there were lots of times where I was sleeping and a shrill tone woke me up - coming from somewhere?

I have two cell phones on my nightstand, a 2-Way Radio, an iPod and alarm clock. I had no idea what was making this tone that I'd never heard before. It would go away before I was awake enough to figure it out.

I have an AT&T iPhone 4 as a backup to my Verizon. It never rings and I never use it, so I never look at it. BUT, I did catch something on the screen out of the corner of my eye before it went back to sleep.

It was a notification of a flood alert. Actually there were a bunch of flood alerts that had been sent over the last couple of days.

Now that's strange. I'd never seen that before, and my Verizon iPhone 4 wasn't doing it.

Then I'd remembered that the AT&T iPhone popped up a box that I had received a "Carrier Update" a couple of days before. I'd never seen that before.

There was no indication in the notification on the lock screen or in the notification pull-down of what app sent these. This was really getting strange. And I really need to get seven hours of sleep a night or I can't function well during the day.

So I looked under the "Privacy" tab in settings. I couldn't find anything there.

Then I looked in "Notifications" which is near the top of the list. I didn't see anything there - UNTIL I scrolled down all the way to the bottom.

It's a section called "Government Alerts" that has a way to turn off AMBER Alerts and Emergency Alerts.

I flipped them to OFF and it stopped waking me up.

The same thing is starting to appear on Android phones, as well as Verizon phones. The alerts are turned on by default. It should only take you an hour or two to figure out how to turn it off in your particular phone.

I threw my weather alert radio out years ago after it kept waking me up in the middle of the night for AMBER alerts (which are usually a missing kid within a couple of hundred miles), and found there is NO way to turn that off and leave the weather alerts on.

Likewise, the flood alerts can be for anywhere within a hundred miles. I just don't need to know that. I need my sleep!

Note that some factories hook up a weather radio with SAME alerting (that's what they call the emergency alerts) to the paging system in their factory, plant or offices. There are plenty of false alerts, but at least on the weather radio you hear a voice explaining why the alarm is going off pretty quickly. And it's hopefully not waking up a worker during the day? That doesn't happen on a cell phone.

Now you know!


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