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The sound and vibration that could save your life


My phone is constantly buzzing and beeping all day long. E-mails, social media, texts, and app notifications bombard my phone and create a cacophony of reminders that tend to all blend together.  But what if one of those texts, e-mails, or social media posts is about an emergency? Wouldn’t it be nice for those emergency updates to “rise to the top” and make you pay attention?

That’s a big reason why Wireless Emergency Alerts have a distinct vibration and alert tone – the alerts are designed to make you pay attention because there’s a potential emergency in your area.  If you have a newer smartphone, you have probably seen these alerts:

screenshot of wireless emergency alert

And you’ve probably heard the alert tone; it’s a cross between a siren and an alarm clock.  Again, the reason for the special tone and distinctive alert is to get your attention because a local official determined an emergency is happening in your area. 

These alerts have proved useful for me too. Back in the fall, I was working from home when a series of severe storms was moving through the D.C. metro area.  I noticed storm clouds forming in the sky but didn’t think anything extraordinary would happen beyond the forecast for storms that I had read earlier that morning.  Sure enough, my phone made the Wireless Emergency Alert sound and vibrated like crazy for a few seconds. Lo and behold, D.C. and some of the surrounding areas were under a tornado warning.  I immediately texted my supervisor to let him know I was stepping away from my computer to take shelter in the basement of my apartment building until the warning expired.

There wasn’t any damage to my apartment building from that storm but the Wireless Emergency alert did its job.  The alert made me aware of what was happening so I could take action to stay safe.  That’s the value of the special tone and vibration – they get your attention so you can act. 

So check the notification settings in your smartphone to make sure your device will receive these alerts.  If you want to learn more, has a full question and answer page.  The next time your phone starts vibrating or making a sound you don’t recognize, stop and pay attention – it could be an alert that saves your life.


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Last Updated: 
06/02/2017 - 09:22


um well you guys make FEMA sound good but the way its looking like prison camps? i strongly disagree....this is scaring the living daylights out of me and i would like to know if these camps are not used for mass killing because they are big enough to hold millions and if they are...ooh the nation will strongly revolt!

I feel that this is a good initiative. In today's fast-paced society, many people are on the go and away from their televisions and radios, but nearly every one of them has a cell phone in their pocket. This is a good way to get the attention of lots of people quickly. Two things I would like to see: First, universal compatibility, even with older devices (it can be done). Second, targeted messages based on the device's physical location that includes information such as sheltering and evacuation information (again, it can be done).