By Jonathan Charles | Jun 16, 2012 02:18 PM EDT
Of the many features in iOS 6, one that received little attention was "Government Alerts" (probably because Apple didn't discuss the feature at its June 11 WWDC keynote). Alerts bring Wireless Emergency Alerts to all iOS 6-enabled devices, allowing users to receive notifications on imminent dangerous weather.
Wireless Emergency Alerts warn people of emergencies and dangerous weather via SMS, and are free location-based warnings that remain specific to the user's location. On June 14, when the service was announced, major wireless carriers with 97 percent of subscribers signed up to the service.
Emergency weather alerts cover tornadoes, flash floods, hurricanes, typhoons, tsunamis, dust storms, extreme winds, blizzards and ice storms and will be under 90 characters. The aim is encourage people to seek more information on the events via TV, radio or the Internet. On extreme weather situations, Alerts will offer advice on where to shelter.
Warnings are only issued for severe weather that is expected to arrive soon, i.e. an "imminent threat." The service also covers national emergencies and missing children.
Amy Storey, spokesperson for the CTIA, said more mobile phones than Americans in the U.S. means the service is the most logical for providing important updates. However, users should also use additional services in case a mobile phone loses power.
The National Weather Service will be supporting Wireless Emergency Alerts by the end of June 2012, so iOS 6 devices - including the iPhone 3GS - will receive weather warnings. Apple said at WWDC iOS 6 will launch this fall.
Described as "big news" by author Rick Wimberley according to AppleInsider, Apple's integration of Wireless Emergency Alerts was said to be vital for people working in the emergency management industry. The service seems like a literal life-saver for families separated across cities, or emergency management professionals who need to predict when bad weather is arriving.
The service isn't compulsory, though: users can opt out by heading to the Settings menu and toggling on/off.
If users want to know if a device supports the service, check the carrier's Web site or search for the carrier and "wireless emergency alerts." Incidentally, Wireless Emergency Alerts is the first national service of its type.
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