Why you should never mute emergency alert notifications on your phone

By Carolyn Sistrand, AccuWeather staff writer
October 03, 2018, 10:28:03 AM EDT

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Every cell phone user in the country receives alerts on their phone. Many times the notifications come from social media or texts for personal use. However, other times they are sent for emergency purposes.

In the case of severe local and national emergencies, alerts are sent straight from the top: the United States government.

It is hard to ignore those loud siren-sounding alarms that simultaneously go off on everyone’s phone, no matter where you are or what volume setting your phone is on. iPhone users know right when they hear it that something important is happening and they may be in harm's way.

Android devices, too, get the same notifications.

These text alerts, although startling at times, are extremely important. These messages are informing the public about AMBER Alerts, imminent threats to safety in their area, severe/extreme weather and regional and national emergencies.

According to Becky DePodwin, AccuWeather digital media customer success coordinator and meteorologist, these alerts are location specific and aim to update the area on what is going on that may affect them.

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Although there is an option to stop receiving these messages, DePodwin recommends you do not turn them off. They provide the most accurate information about emergencies and personal safety which can save your life or the lives of others.

There are also notifications that can be sent straight to cell phones that all users could greatly benefit from, especially during an unfolding event like a natural disaster.

In the case of weather emergencies, it is vital to know the track of the storm and how it may affect you. There are plenty of questions to consider such as: Is the tornado going to hit your home? Will the hurricane cause the residents of your town to evacuate? How long could snow keep you off the road?

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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) app is a resource that will provide an abundance of information. NOAA is one of the major agencies that tracks daily weather to each movement of a major weather event. Their dedication to studying the ocean, atmosphere and ecosystem allows for accuracy in their reporting.

The National Weather Service is a trusted weather resource as well. Twitter and Facebook users can follow the national NWS page or the NWS pages specific to their area. Just look for the blue check for official verification.

Although NWS does not have a app to download, they have outlets, such as AccuWeather, who distribute the information they provide.

“Everything that is issued by the NWS will be pushed through our application,” said DePodwin.

AccuWeather's partnership with NWS allows for superior accuracy beyond AccuWeather’s own forecasts and storm tracking. By downloading the free AccuWeather app, the notifications users receive will come from NWS, along with AccuWeather forecasters, meteorologists and storm chasers.

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“We try to get statements [such as] 'what are the impacts of the events? How is this going to impact you today? What does this mean to you?,'” said DePodwin.

Aside from weather-specific resources, it is important to download any apps or follow social media pages that keep you updated on your area. Local governments, state governments and, of course, the national government use apps and social media resources to disperse information to the greater population.

If the local government calls for evacuations, paying close attention to these resources will let you know. If the governor calls for a state of emergency ahead of a natural disaster, these resources will inform you of that as well.

Non-profits, such as the Red Cross, have apps that tell you where their resources and shelters are during a national emergency.

The Red Cross often deploys volunteers to set up temporary shelters and offers assistance to the areas affected during a natural disaster. Their app offers the public a way to stay on top of what they may be doing as well as how and where their assistance can be accessed.

For more safety and preparedness tips, visit AccuWeather.com/Ready.

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