Cellphones have transformed the way society as a whole can receive important information from governmental entities. In Asia, Japan in particular, there are systems established
to alert entire swaths of customers as to when potential storms are coming. And now, Americans using Apple's iPhone 5
and iPhone 4S
will be able to receive government-issued safety messages over AT&T.
The carrier has noted that AMBER Alerts and emergency alerts – such as man-made or natural disasters, and Presidential alerts -- will be included, and the carrier settings update should be pushed as early as today via iTunes. Wireless Emergency Alerts are part of the FCC’s CMAS program and are mandated by law. You may turn off alerts (except for Presidential alerts) if you choose. Go to Settings >Notifications>Turn On/Off.
When the software update is delivered to your phone, you will see a message that states “Carrier Settings Update: new settings required for your device have been installed”. After that, your iPhone 5 or 4S will receive all Wireless Emergency Alerts by default. As you'd expect, no charges will occur to receive these notices.