Emergency Alerts

Poster from FEMA showing what a Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) will look like on your phone. This one mentions a tornado.The messages, which are officially called Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA), are government authorized messages that fall into three categories:

  1. Weather- from the National Weather Service (NWS)
  2. Amber- from the The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC)
  3. National Emergency- from the president (POTUS)

Thanks to cell towers, you don’t need to live in the affected area to receive the alert. The towers also will alert you of any previous (and still active) messages when you enter the area. If you’re on the phone, the alert will wait until you’re off to pop up.

You can turn off the Weather and the Amber but not the national emergency alerts. To do so go into your notification settings.


Settings > Notifications > Government Alerts (at the bottom)

Screenshot of setting to turn off government alerts


They vary by manufacturer but you can search your settings for Emergency Alerts to be brought to that setting.

samsung galaxy emergency alert settings

For a Samsung Galaxy S6 or S6 Edge, S7 or S7 Edge, or S8 or S8 Plus, S9 or S9 Plus (AT&T, T-Mobile)

(source: https://www.fema.gov/frequently-asked-questions-wireless-emergency-alerts)

How to see if you’re phone can receive alerts

Read more


A robocall is a phone call that uses a computerized autodialer to deliver a pre-recorded message, as if from a robot. Robocalls are often associated with political and telemarketing phone campaigns, but can also be used for public-service or emergency announcements. (source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robocall)

Some robocalls, like reminders from your doctor’s office about an upcoming appointment, are legal. Others, like those saying you’ve won a cruise, are illegal. Rule of thumb: if they’re trying to sell you something, it’s only legal if they get your written consent.

If you get an illegal one, hang up and report the number on https://donotcall.gov. You may recognize The Do Not Call Registry and may have already put your number in there only to find it didn’t work. That’s because the registry is only for legitimate businesses. Setting up a Robocall scam is cheap and easy. “Companies” that do that aren’t legitimate.

You can also download apps to help block calls. But only download apps on these lists:

You can also contact your carrier and see if they have any services to help.

(Source: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0259-robocalls)

The FTC just announced a big push to get rid of illegal RoboCalls: https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2019/06/ftc-law-enforcement-partners-announce-new-crackdown-illegal


While they can be useful, such as when your phone app (yes using your phone as a phone requires an app) tells you that you missed a call and/or you have a new voicemail, notifications can also be annoying, such as when Facebook wants to show you what you’ve missed in the last nanosecond. It’s all about moderation. But to be moderate takes an extreme amount of work.

Notifications are set at two levels: first in the app itself, and second in the notifications menu of your phone’s setting app. Additionally, there are also usually different things within the app that want to notify you. That means you may have turned off one notification type but missed the others.  Here’s a handy article to help you out:


Food for Thought

The first attempt as a Nation Wide Alert System was the National Emergency Alarm Repeater (NEAR). Developed shortly after WWII, it  was made up of buzzers people plugged in and which were “triggered by a unique high-frequency electrical current transmitted across the national power grid by 500 specially designed warning signal generators.” Due to the fact that it only buzzed and didn’t contain any info on the emergency whatsoever, it was quickly scrapped.

Read more about the history of national alerts.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email