Emergency Alerts: What You Need To Know

At 2:18 EST time last Wednesday, you were probably startled by a noise on your cell phone. Phone alerts tend to mean bad news, like a missing child or an oncoming tornado, but yesterday’s report wasn’t a scary update—it was just a test.


Wednesday’s test was for a new alert program, the Integrated Public Alert and Warnings System. Unlike AMBER alerts for missing children or local weather warnings, the test came from the federal level. The alert intends to inform all Americans about national threats, like a nuclear attack. It went out to 225 million phones, reaching about 75% of the United States population.

Many Americans believed that the message would come directly from the president. This triggered worries about becoming a captive audience for political messages. In reality, the alert comes from officials with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), not the president. While the president determines when an alert is necessary, there are laws in place that keep anyone from using the system to broadcast messages that do not relate to a national threat.

While it is disconcerting to imagine abuse of this system, emergency alert play a critical role in public safety.

What Are AMBER Alerts?

Since national threats are thankfully rare, most alert systems concern local issues. Of these local alerts, the best known is probably the AMBER alert system. Formally known as America’s Missing: Emergency Broadcast Response, the acronym honors Amber Hagerman, who was abducted and murdered in 1996. The system aims to alert the public about missing children and gives identifying details about the child and potential abductor. When this information is given to the public, everyday citizens can watch for suspicious activity.

Staying Informed About Dangerous Weather

Dangerous weather is another common cause of emergency alerts. Called Wireless Emergency Alerts, these messages can come from a variety of agencies, from local governments to the National Weather Service. They alert people about nearby weather conditions, like tornadoes or tsunamis. This system is in place to warn people about dangerous conditions, so they will know to stay inside, avoid certain areas, or take other precautions.

Whether they’re about a missing child or a national threat, emergency alerts are an important way of staying informed about dangerous or important events. So next time your phone shows an alert, don’t ignore it!


The attorneys at Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes represent those involved in car accidents, motorcycle accidents, bicycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, and other types of personal injury matters. Our firm is one of the oldest personal injury law firms in Tampa Bay. There are no attorneys’ fees or costs unless we prevail for you. Call our office 24 hours a day at 727-796-8282 or simply click here to schedule a free case consultation.

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