Friday, June 2, 2017

Good Concept, Bad Execution

I think that AMBER Alerts (the name is officially a acronym for America's Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response) are a good thing. They allow authorities to quickly get the word out about child abductions. However, the methods for getting that word out could use a little tweaking.

The alerts are distributed through radio stations, TV stations, and some social media websites.  At the beginning of  2013, they also started being sent to cell phone users that have the capability of receiving Wireless Emergency Alerts.  It's still all good, but the chosen alert method for cell phones is an extremely loud and blaring alarm.  It doesn't matter if you have the phone on Silent or Do Not Disturb; the sound still comes through.  The first time I heard it I was terrified.

In my area an AMBER alert is only issued once every few months.  The latest one happened in the middle of the night Tuesday, during the 2:00 hour. My phone was downstairs in the kitchen. The loud, piercing sound traveled down the hall, up the stairs, across another hall, and into the bedroom. I woke up in a panic when I heard it, but when I realized what it was I rolled over and went back to sleep. (The next morning I found out the alert had been issued for a possible abduction about a hundred miles to the southwest from my house. Fortunately, the girl was quickly found.)

In the past I've tried poking around on my phone to find a way to lower the alert volume, but I didn't have any luck. This time I decided to research the issue.  Sadly, I found out the alerts are all or nothing.  The only option is to disable the alert. 

After thinking about it for a while I decided that when future alerts are issued I'll hear about them through other channels, and turned off the AMBER alerts on my iPhone.  The process was simple.
  • Open Settings, then click on Notifications
  • Scroll all the way to the bottom to the Government Alerts section
  • Toggle the switch for AMBER Alerts OFF
I hope that sometime in the future they'll update the notification settings to make the alerts less strident.  If they did I would gladly turn them back on.


  1. I've seen them come on TV thankfully not my phone.

  2. I've turned them off, on my phone, after about the 2nd one. It's funny when it happens in the office; you hear all the beeps go off at once.

    1. I've been in groups when alerts are posted, and it IS interesting to hear the cacophony of beeps.