As We See It

FAQs on all those AMBER alerts we’ve been getting

AMBER Alerts are sent out to notify geographically targeted areas of child abductions.

Last week our phones were flooded with AMBER alerts, and we were full of questions. Are there other color alerts? Who gets the messages? And how can we opt out? We did some homework on the alerts, so the next time your phone beeps, you’ll know the deal.

Who gets them?

Owners of Wireless Emergency Alert-enabled mobile devices in the geographically targeted areas designated by the government agencies sending the alerts, according to the FCC. Depending on when your device was purchased, a software update could be required to receive the WEAs.


It’s not a color; AMBER is an acronym for America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response. According to the Department of Justice, the system was “created as a legacy” for Amber Hagerman, a 9-year-old who was abducted and murdered in Texas in 1996.

Are there other alerts?

Yes. There are also alerts issued by the president, as well as alerts “involving imminent threats to safety or life.” The latter is why you received messages regarding flash floods during the Valley’s severe thunderstorms last month.

What is the presidential alert for?

Messages issued during a national emergency.

What do I do when I receive one?

FEMA instructs receivers to follow any directives in the message and seek additional information from local authorities.

Can I opt out of the WEAs?

Yes and no. According to FEMA, you can opt out of all the WEAs except the presidential alert. And really, if the leader of the free world were trying that hard to reach you, wouldn’t you want to hear the message?

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