Monday night, after I was asleep, my Twitter timeline exploded briefly. Folks out west were unhappy that their iPhones had blasted to life with noisy notifications—alerts that had apparently even ignored their Do Not Disturb settings.
Authorities had issued an Amber Alert after discovering a horrific crime scene and evidence of a potential kidnapping. iOS and other smartphone operating systems have supported Amber Alerts for a while, but they also require carrier support; some carriers only introduced support for those alerts within the past few months.
The immediate reaction to an unexpected notification on your iPhone at nearly 11 p.m. is understandably surprise, annoyance, and maybe even anger. Armed with a little more understanding of why the alerts exist, what they mean, and how you can control them, you’ll likely find yourself less agitated the next time one rings out on your phone.
What is an Amber Alert?
Officially, it should be written AMBER Alert; it’s a backronym for America’s Missing: Broadcasting Emergency Response. But the alerts are originally named for Amber Hagerman, a 9-year-old girl who was abducted and murdered in Texas 17 years ago. The alert system is also known as CAE, for Child Abduction Emergency.