In May 2012 several U.S. carriers started rolling out a nationwide wireless emergency alerts (WEA) system for wireless subscribers. The free service is intended to share information about natural disasters and other location-centric news, like AMBER alerts.
Over the weekend AT&T announced that it is bringing WEA to its iPhone 5 and iPhone 4S owners across the country. The service will be enabled via a carrier firmware update that has started rolling out to subscribers on iOS 6.1 and higher.
These are government-issued safety messages that include AMBER Alerts, emergency alerts – such as man-made or natural disasters, and Presidential alerts.
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.
SMS messages are are sent via WEA will not affect billing, and AT&T will not charge for the data is takes to download the required carrier update.
To see if you have WEA enabled on your AT&T iPhone already, visit the Notifications section of the Settings app and scroll to the bottom.