How to Disable AMBER Alerts on the iPhone
While the concept behind AMBER Alerts is fantastic, being startled by the iPhone belting out an extremely loud and terrifyingly blaring alarm sound in the middle of the night is not exactly a pleasant experience. This can be made even more frustrating for users who don’t know what the alert is for, and exacerbated by the very generous coverage region for an AMBER alert, where you may be hundreds of miles away from the event epicenter and still get the alarm sent to your iPhone anyway. It’s not recommended, but as with other weather and government alerts, iOS offers an option to disable all AMBER Alerts coming to your iPhone.
We’ll emphasize that again; turning off the AMBER alert alarms feature is really not recommended because the system works best when all individuals keep the feature turned on, thus increasing effectiveness and reporting. Unfortunately, disabling the alert is the only way (at the moment) to turn off the petrifying sound effect, which may be appealing to some users who have found the alarms to be an unusual disturbance if not outright erroneous based on their iPhone location, sometimes in a completely different state from where the alerts location is specified.
Disabling the AMBER Alerts & Alarm Sound on iPhone
Currently, there is only an option to disable both the sound and the alert. Here’s what you’ll want to do:
- Open Settings on the iPhone and head to “Notification Center”
- Scroll all the way to the bottom to find the “GOVERNMENT ALERTS” section
- Toggle the switch for “AMBER Alerts” to be OFF
This disables both the the very loud sound effect, and disappointingly, it also turns off the actual important alert notifications too.
Why can’t we just mute the AMBER Alert sound effect? Or change it to something less frightening?
Ideally, future versions of iOS will offer an ability to simply turn off or change the AMBER Alert sound effect to a much more subtle sound that is less startling, while still allowing the obviously important notifications to come through to everyones devices. Most of us pay attention to every single little beep and boop emitted from our phones and computers anyway, so the aggressive default sound that Apple included is very likely not essential to get our attention.
Because of how disturbing the alert sound effect is, many users who hear it once immediately want to turn the feature off completely. That’s obviously bad since it hurts the effectiveness of the program, so clearly some changes are needed. If you’ve never heard an AMBER alert sent to an iPhone, it’s hard to quantify just how disturbing the sound is from iOS. It’s not your standard ‘emergency broadcast’ sound that breaks through TV or Radio, that would be much more pleasant, it’s an extraordinarily loud and intrusive sound, overriding whatever the iPhone mute settings, volume settings, alert sounds, and audio preferences of the Do Not Disturb feature. It’s genuinely startling, whether you’re sleeping, sitting around the house, or driving, and if you’re in a room with multiple devices that get the alert at the same time it’s a nearly heart attack inducing cacophony which basically sounds like the world is ending.
iOS AMBER Alert Improvements are Needed
AMBER Alerts also have another problem; the data sent to your iPhone isn’t exactly clear. Several of my friends recently got one in the US state of Arizona (pictured above). Many of them had never even heard of an AMBER alert before, let alone the sound, and it certainly gives no indication that it’s aimed at helping to locate a missing child. Basically if you don’t already know what they are, you just get the horrifying alert sound on your iPhone with a very vague message that mentions a location, a loose car description, and an alphanumeric number (which turns out to be the license plate) – one of my friends actually thought it was a spam message for auto sales that was somehow dispatched to their iPhone. Furthermore, tapping onto the AMBER alert notification doesn’t do anything, it doesn’t pull up more information, and it doesn’t explain what it is… it just sits under the “Emergency Alerts” section of the Notifications panel, which is also where hazardous weather and events get listed.
All of this seems like an oversight that should be fixed so that users can at least learn more details about the alert, and ultimately help to respond to it. It also seems bizarre that the only way to get relief from the sound effect is to completely turn off the feature, so here’s to hoping that Apple offers some changes in a future iOS update to an otherwise important feature.