How to Silence Emergency and AMBER Alerts on iPhone

See the alerts; don't be frightened by them

Emergency key on the computer keyboard
Emergency and Amber Alerts provide critical information to smartphone users.

 Oakozhan/iStock/Getty Images Plus

When notifications pop up on your iPhone's screen and play an alert tone to get your attention, they're usually informing you of things like text messages or voicemails. These are important, but not crucial in most cases.

Sometimes, though, much more important messages are sent by local government agencies to notify you about serious things like extreme weather and AMBER alerts. There are even Presidential Alerts that are designed to warn of major national disasters.

These emergency alerts are important and useful (AMBER alerts are for missing children; emergency alerts for safety issues), but not everyone wants to receive them. This may be especially true if you've ever been woken up in the middle of the night by the shockingly loud sounds that come with these messages. Trust me: They're designed to ensure that no one can sleep through them – and if you've been scared awake in the past, you might not want to repeat that pulse-pounding experience. 

These alert systems are only used in the United States, so this article and these settings do not apply to iPhone users in other countries. In other countries, these settings aren't present. 

To turn off Emergency and/or AMBER alerts on your iPhone, just follow these steps:

  1. Tap the Settings app to open it.

  2. Tap Notifications (in some older versions of the iOS, this menu is also called​ Notification Center).

  3. Scroll to the very bottom of the screen and find the section labeled Government Alerts. Both AMBER and Emergency Alerts are set to On/green by default.

  4. To turn off AMBER Alerts, move its slider to Off/white.

  5. To turn off Emergency Alerts, move its slider to Off/white.

You can choose to enable both, disable both, or leave one enabled and turn the other off.

Can Do Not Disturb Silence These Alerts?

Normally, when you don't want to be bothered by an alert tone or notification, you can just turn on the iPhone's Do Not Disturb feature. That option won't work with Emergency and AMBER alerts. Because these alerts signal a true emergency that could affect your life or safety, or the life or safety of a child, Do Not Disturb cannot block them. Notifications sent through these systems override Do Not Disturb and will sound no matter your settings.

Can You Change Emergency and AMBER Alert Tones?

While you can change the sound used for other alerts, you can't customize the sounds used for Emergency and AMBER alerts. This may come as bad news to people who hate the harsh, abrasive noises that come along with these alerts. It's worth keeping in mind, however, that the sound they play is unpleasant because it's designed to get your attention.

If you want to get the information without the noise, you can turn off the sound on your phone and you'll only see the onscreen alert, but not hear it.

Why You Shouldn't Disable Emergency and AMBER Alerts on iPhone

Even though these alerts can sometimes be surprising or unwelcome (whether they come in the middle of the night or because they signal a child may be in danger), it is strongly recommend that you leave them turned on – especially the Emergency alerts. This type of message is sent when there is dangerous weather or another serious health or safety event imminent in your area. If there's a tornado or flash flood or other potential natural disaster heading your way, wouldn't you want to know and be able to take action?

Emergency and AMBER alerts are sent very rarely and only in very specific situations. The disruption they cause is really minor compared to the benefit they offer.