Time is of the essence in many emergencies as those of us in the business know…In cases of child abduction, law enforcement officers rush to alert as many people as quickly as possible as they well know that the grim reality is that the odds of finding a child worsen with each passing moment.
So this past Wednesday morning just before 4 a.m., countless bleary-eyed New Yorkers were jolted upright when their cellphones suddenly started blaring with a message about a 7-month-old boy who had been abducted hours earlier by his mother, who had a history of mental illness, from a foster care agency in Harlem.
It was a watershed moment in the intersection of law enforcement and technology: the first mass Amber Alert sent to cellphones in the city since a national wireless emergency alert system was established. And, the police later said, it directly led to the child’s being located.
But it also illustrated the growing reach of a vast public communications network that connects more people than ever before, using the ubiquitous cellphones that many people keep with them at all times and even sleep beside at night.
While cellphone users can adjust their settings or ask their carriers to turn off Amber and other emergency alerts, they do not have the option of tuning out completely. The highest level of alert intended for catastrophic events — known as the presidential alert — cannot be disabled, though not a single one has yet been issued.
Being connected can sometimes have impacts on your sleep. To that end, this morning the NYT posted instructions on how to turn off Amber Alerts on your smart phone.
How to Turn Off Amber Alerts
- On an iPhone: Go to Settings, and select “Notifications.” Scroll all the way down and you will find a “Government Alerts” section where you can toggle on or off the Amber Alerts.
- For Android, BlackBerry and other devices: Each device’s alert system is managed by the carrier – Verizon, Sprint, etc. – so you’ll need to contact your cellular carrier.