During Sunday’s powerful storm, many were startled by the sound of the emergency alert on cell phones and other mobile devices. It’s a wireless emergency alert, warning cell phone users of danger.
But, some viewers and even our own Raychel Vendetti’s phone failed to sound the alarm. Raychel has two cell phones, an iPad, and an old iPhone and not a single sound. “And, we live close to where the tornado touched down, but we seem to be in the minority,” she says. So, how do we make sure this alarm goes off when we need it to?
Loretta Sutton’s alert on the tornado warning sounded on her iPhone as she was driving home Sunday evening. “I was right down the block and I got into the house and got into the basement.” Sutton takes the alerts very seriously. Her aunt and cousin were killed in the 1985 Albion tornado. “We didn’t have those news alerts, so it’s important to me to get those alerts so we know what is going on and seek shelter so we don’t have a loss.”
If you weren’t tuned in to the breaking weather alerts on television chances are the alarm would have alerted you of Sunday’s tornado warning. They are called wireless emergency alerts, a free text-like message with a special tone or vibration.
Mandi Schenley, Assistant Manager at AT&T, says, “the carrier does send them out but we send them out on behalf of local or state emergency agencies so it’s at the behest of those agencies”.
There are different types of alerts: imminent threats, amber alerts, and presidential alerts. All but the presidential alerts can be turned off, but it’s best to keep them on and ready. You can adjust the settings to your preference. “They are default-on,” Shenley tells us, but “you can override the settings in your phones, with certain phones like Samsung phones you can choose how they go off, when they go off, and if they vibrate or not.”
For Loretta, this development in technology is a lifesaver. “My TV was out and I was unable to see what was going on and getting those alerts and being able to communicate with the family was very important”.
We checked in with our followers on Facebook to see if they received the alert. Many said yes, some said no and others say their alert came after the threat. It’s important to check your settings and if you are not sure how to do that, your carrier or google can help.
Schenley says they send them out at once, but have no control over exactly when they are received.