Turning Off Phone Amber Alerts: The Guilt vs. the Terror

One night this past week, the amber alert signal built into my iPhone went off three times in about 15 minutes after 9 p.m. None of them were alerts I could do anything about, but that really isn't the point. One of them, at some point, could be. Still, the fact they came in rapid succession would have been bad enough, but the noise was what finally got me to turn them off.

I'm not sure what genius decided that the emergency alert sound, which feels like an air raid siren going off about one-eighth of an inch from my ear drum, on full blast was the best way to go with these things, or who thought it was a good idea that sound was unable to be changed, but it was simply too much for me.

See, noise makes me jumpy. My wife has routinely laughed at me for nearly jumping out of my seat at the movies any time there is even a loud clap of thunder. I'm startled easily. I can't help it. So, when an air raid siren breaks the relative silence of my living room after 9 on a school night, it's more than a bit jarring.

Honestly, I didn't even know you could turn these alerts off. But, when I started digging around in the setting of my iPhone, there it was, the off switch. My first though, however, was, "How do I change the alert tone?" If the alert tone were the same one that I used, say, for text messages, I probably would leave it on. But, when the only option is full-on death squad noise or no alerts at all, I'm sorry, but I choose nothing.

This isn't to say it doesn't make me feel guilty. I want to help the poor missing elderly man from Dallas or the little girl kidnapped in Huntsville. I would like to keep an eye out for the red Honda Accura if I can. I want to be a good citizen and help my fellow Texas residents, but how am I supposed to handle that damn alert sound?

It seems almost obvious that the government would build this wonderful device for helping us find missing loved ones, but make no effort to get it to the populous in a way that doesn't scare them to death. I can barely take the emergency alert tests on the radio and the government wants to stick it on the phone I carry around in my pocket. Forget it.

If the phone companies or the state -- honestly, I don't know who to blame in this one -- would simply give me (and others) the option of changing the alert tone, I'm fairly certain more of us would keep it active. Judging by the responses to my tweet about it earlier this week, I'm not the only one who moved the switch to off after one too many blasts of sound. It's a simple solution and one that would benefit everyone. Make it happen, technology!

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