Alerts: How do I make sure I get them? How do I stop getting them?

Staff writerMarch 9, 2014 

Brian Josef, assistant vice president for regulatory affairs with CTIA-The Wireless Association, answered questions about wireless emergency alerts. His association represents the wireless industry.

Q: How many Verizon customers have opted out of the wireless emergency alerts?

A: Carriers don’t necessarily get that information and track those numbers. We don’t have that information.

Q: How can customers opt out of the alerts?

A: First of all, because the alerts are protecting the public, they’re saving lives, we would hope people don’t opt out, but if they do, there’s information you can get from your carrier. It’s usually a setting you change on your phone. There’s one category of alerts that was set out by Congress that you cannot opt out of. And those are presidential alerts.

Q: I have a new phone, and I have never received an alert, when coworkers sitting near me have. Can you tell me why this could be?

A: It really depends on where you are at and at what time. I don’t think I received one for the first eight or nine months. There’s no requirement that a phone be wireless emergency alert-capable, but clearly the trend is for the vast majority of devices to be. It’s always great to ask in the store or online if a phone is.

Q: Did the federal government compensate carriers for helping implement this system?

A: The federal government did not subsidize carriers in any way. They recognized that this was a really important tool and something they wanted to be a part of.

Q: What have the challenges and successes been for carriers with this system?

A: The system really has been a tremendous success from our perspective. We had agreed to develop and roll this out voluntarily. The alerts are protecting the public and saving lives. Sometimes it surprised people if it’s the first time they’ve received the alert.

Q: Some cellphone users have received the same alerts on their devices multiple times. What causes this, and has it been addressed?

A: These alerts are rebroadcast until the emergency situation has passed and is no longer a threat to those in the area. In addition, the message may appear similar, but may have updated or new info so it’s important that consumers read each message for the latest news.

Q: Is there anything else cellphone users should know about this system?

A: These are really highly effective, geotargeted, free-to-the-public alerts. We hear continuously of positive success stories.

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