Turn On or Off Government Emergency Alerts on the iPhone
The iPhone now includes FCC & FEMA alerts on all major US carriers, known as Wireless Emergency Alerts. This translates into two basic types of alerts; AMBER alerts for abductions, and general emergency alerts issued by national, state, and local governments. Both of these alert types are free to receive, fairly severe, and also pretty rare, and by no means should an iPhone get a bunch of random alerts from governmental agencies unless something truly dangerous is going on that applies to you. The alerts themselves typically coincide with extreme weather, ranging from blizzards, floods, wild fire, hurricanes, to other natural disasters.
By default, iPhone and iOS has both AMBER and emergency alerts set to ON, which is probably a good idea to keep enabled, but of course not everyone wants to get any such alerts on their devices, and iOS gives you the option to toggle these off.
- Open Settings, then go to “Notifications” (labeled as “Notification Center” in iOS 7)
- Scroll to the bottom to find the toggle switches for AMBER Alerts and Emergency Alerts
You will need iOS 6.1 or newer to have these two options available. Because they are very infrequent, toggling them off will likely have no effect on battery life unlike disabling some of the nagging alerts that arrive from third party apps.
Assuming you have the alerts set to ON, the FCC explains the three primary alert types as so:
Alerts from WEA cover only critical emergency situations. Consumers will receive only three types of alerts:
1. Alerts issued by the President
2. Alerts involving imminent threats to safety or life
3. Amber Alerts
Participating carriers may allow subscribers to block all but Presidential alerts.
These are basically all public safety emergencies, evacuation and shelter orders, chemical spills, and other unpleasant scenarios that would be important to be notified of. Because the alerts only come through in extreme situations, our recommendation would be to leave these alerts set to ON with any iPhone you actually use often and keep with you all the time. On the other hand, for older iPhone models or iPhones that are serving some alternative purpose other than a daily carry device, it may make some sense to switch them off.