Thursday , 27 October 2016
Breaking News

Bombing Suspect: Wireless Cellphone Alerts Explained

Many people in the New York City area were alerted Monday morning to a screeching, buzzing message about a man wanted in connection with explosions in the area over the weekend.

A Saturday explosion in Manhattan injured 29 people. Other devices were found in the New York City area but caused no injuries. Police were seeking a 28-year-old man, Ahmad Khan Rahami, in connection with the bombing.

The Associated Press reported that police had him in custody hours after the alert went out, though it wasn’t immediately known whether the alert played a role. The alert read, “WANTED: Ahmad Khan Rahami, 28-yr-old male. See media for pic. Call 9-1-1 if seen.”

What are these alerts and how do they work?

What Are Wireless Emergency Alerts?

According to the Federal Communications Commission, these text-like messages let cellphone users in a particular area receive notices about what are deemed critical emergencies. Messages can be about weather threats, missing children or emergencies like a chemical spill.

The wireless industry, the FCC and the Federal Emergency Management Agency started this program in 2012, according to the wireless trade group CTIA.

How Are They Sent?

FEMA authorizes messages from a local, state, federal, or tribal government agency and sends them on to wireless carriers.

Messages appear on phones just like texts and are accompanied by a loud alarm. The phone also vibrates, which the FCC says helps people with hearing or vision disabilities. The alerts don’t count as texts, so people on limited text plans won’t get charged extra. Some phones, especially older ones, might not be equipped to receive these messages, though.

The alerts aren’t affected by network congestion and are based on cell tower locations, so if you’re on vacation in California, you won’t get alerts for New York, even if your phone is registered there. The FCC says targeting is typically down…