Wireless Emergency Alerts Changed By FCC After Ahmed Rahami Texts, How To Turn Them Off

Emergency alert texts are being adjust after an FCC ruling in order to give the public more information when they are used. You can, however, still turn them off. Apple

On Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission announced big changes to emergency alert texts, which received much scrutiny following the Chelsea bombing in New York City and subsequent manhunt for Ahmed Rahami.

“The updated rules are intended to promote the wider use and effectiveness of this lifesaving service, especially for state and local authorities to convey important information to their communities,” the FCC said in a statement.

The biggest change coming to the emergency texts is an increase in character limits. When the NYC emergency alerts went out there was a 90-character limit. That has now been expanded to 360 characters for 4G LTE and future networks. The FCC's decision Thursday also allows for links and photos of suspects to appear in the emergency alert when necessary.

Wireless emergency alert texts were first introduced in 2012 as a way for public officials and agencies to notify the public about emergencies related to weather, public health, safety and much more. While few have argued with the intent of the emergency texts, the application has not been flawless in the public’s eye.

After the explosions in NYC it took about 12 hours for law enforcement to identify Rahami as the suspect. When it did notify the public it only gave the suspect’s name and that if you see the 28-year-old Rahami to call 911. That’s it, no other ID, photo, etc. Thursday’s FCC update aims to prevent further speculation.

How To Turn Off Emergency Alert Texts

If you’re someone who never wants to receive an emergency alert text from local and federal authorities again (we wouldn’t recommend this), there is a way to turn off those notifications.

For iOS/iPhone emergency alerts:

  1. Open settings app and click on notifications.

  2. Scroll down to the bottom of the screen and look for "government alerts."

  3. There you can toggle AMBER alerts and emergency alerts on/off.

For Android devices you’ll have to check with individual and specific smartphones for directions on how to turn off emergency alerts. Each Android device will have slightly different ways to turn off emergency notifications. 


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