If you didn’t notice, sometime in the recent past when you picked up your iPhone, you might have seen a message that said “Carrier Settings Update: New settings required for your device have been installed”.
The update was to install Wireless Emergency Alerts which is part of a public safety system designed to send out geographically-targeted messages to alert people of “imminent threats to safety.” Much like the Emergency Broadcasting System for televisions, Wireless Emergency Alerts are part of the FCC‘s New CMAS (Commercial Mobile Alert System) Program and is mandated by law that all wireless phones be equipped with the feature.
The messages are government issued and will include AMBER alerts for missing childen, Emergency Alerts that involve severe weather events, like tornado warnings, or other Public Safety Warnings, and Presidential Alerts that are issued directly by the President.
The update was pushed out to all AT&T customers with an iPhone 4S or iPhone 5 in the last few weeks, and will be pushed out to iPhone 4 customers very soon. The feature was actually a part of iOS 6 when it was first designed and has been available to iPhone customers on other wireless carriers since then. In fact AT&T customers using other smartphones already have this feature, but it has taken this long for them to catch up and make the feature available to its iPhone users.
AT&T has assured that none of the messages you receive through the Wireless Emergency Alerts System will count against your messaging plan, as they don’t for any wireless provider. You can disable both AMBER Alerts, and the Emergency Alerts in your phone settings, but the Presidential Alerts are mandatory and cannot be deactivated.
If you have an iPhone 4S or 5, and are running iOS 6.1 or later, you should already have received the carrier update. If you are running an earlier version of iOS then you will need to connect to iTunes in order to download it.
You can find the Wireless Emergency Alert settings in your iPhone by going to Settings, then Notifications. Once there, scroll all the way to the bottom and you will find options to turn the alerts on and off.
- AT&T adds wireless emergency alerts update to iPhones – CNET (news.cnet.com)
- AT&T Announces Wireless Emergency Alerts for iPhone 5, 4S Users (iClarified.com)
- AT&T now pushing iPhone update to add Wireless Emergency Alert (electronista.com)