Editor’s note: You will not hear the sound of Wednesday’s emergency alert test in the video above. Federal regulations prohibit broadcasting emergency tones in a non-emergency situation.
The federal government sent out a nationwide emergency alert test Wednesday morning, complete with a loud alert tone. While it was only a test, survivors of domestic violence were warned to turn off any hidden phones they had prior to the alert going out.
One of those sending out the pre-alert warning was Central Oregon’s Saving Grace, which provides services to domestic violence and sexual assault victims.
“The problem with the FEMA alert is that it goes off even if your phone is silenced, even if it’s anything but off completely,” Saving Grace Marketing and Community Events Coordinator David Hoover said.
Hoover said the concern lies with survivors who have a hidden burner phone that’s unknown to the abuser. The alarm could potentially alert the abuser to the hidden device.
“Saving Grace deals with clients that have intimate partner violence situations or stalking or sexual assault situations where they may have a hidden or emergency phone that they keep separate from their abuser, and they use it to contact a provider like us for life-saving services,” Hoover said.
There are several reasons why a survivor would hide a burner phone from an abusive partner.
“Cases where an abuser is exercising control over a survivor’s whereabouts. We see cases where they didn’t know they were being tracked. Having that emergency phone can be a separate way to keep your whereabouts unknown while still being connected to the outside world,” Hoover said.
While this alert has passed, there will be more government alarms in the future — whether it’s another emergency test or an Amber Alert.
You can turn these alerts off on your phone by going to your settings, tapping the notifications tab and scrolling to the bottom of the screen. There, you can toggle off automated alert systems.
If survivors want to keep the alerts feature activated, Saving Grace recommends they keep burner phones turned off when automated tests are expected. Even if the phone’s volume is manually turned all the way down, those alerts will play at full volume.