The Commercial Mobile Alert System (CMAS) is an extremely important technology. When used correctly it can quite literally be a lifesaver.
But doing so means learning exactly what the technology is, why it’s so important, and how to turn it on and off in order to best fit your needs.
Table of Contents
What Does CMAS Mean on a Consumer Cellular Phone?
CMAS (Commercial Mobile Alert System) is also known as a Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) or Personal Localized Alerting Network (PLAN).
The naming scheme has changed over the years, but the underlying meaning essentially comes down to one central point.
CMAS is part of a large-scale emergency alert system that can send messages to almost everyone’s cell phone at the same time, mainly for public safety reasons.
What Is CMAS?
The idea of being able to send out emergency information to everyone in a specific geographic region was a revolutionary idea.
This is largely due to the fact that cell phones get around the inherent delays of radio, TV, and newspapers.
For example, imagine that a child had been kidnapped and was being transported in an identified vehicle.
If everyone in that town instantly knew what to look for, the child’s chances of being saved would be phenomenally better.
But if the news came through the TV then the number of people who’d know to look for the vehicle would be comparatively small.
The only people who’d know are those who were watching TV when the alert was issued.
Today a CMAS alert for a missing or kidnapped child are specially classified as an Amber Alert.
The ability to instantly leverage an entire community to help people in danger has been an enormous benefit to public safety.
The same general principle goes for a wide variety of different events. In addition to crime-related alerts, CMAS is used for weather alerts and natural disasters.
Fires, tornados, hurricanes, and similar events can hit without much advance notice. And every extra minute people have to prepare is a precious commodity.
The amount of people who can be saved by pushing an alert out to an entire region at once is almost immeasurable. And CMAS, at least in theory, is able to do all of that and more.
Annoyances of CMAS
Of course, there’s always the eternal issue of theory and practice to consider when it comes to mass communication.
In theory, any alert sent through CMAS is going to be of the utmost importance to every recipient. In practice that’s seldom the case.
Many people only find out about CMAS for the first time after trying to figure out why they’re getting warnings about an event so far away that it could never impact them.
The system is ultimately only as reliable as the people or groups in control of it. There’s always an element of human judgment going into decisions about what CMAS alerts to send and what the effective range for the alert will be.
It’s quite common, for example, for a CMAS alert about fires to go out to people one or two counties away from the potential danger.
It’s possible that a fire might spread that far, but ultimately unlikely. A person sending the alert might be going by a policy that demands acting in as careful a manner as possible.
But that’s often little consolation to a recipient who’s just trying to sleep while his phone keeps waking him up to warm about a fire one town over.
This is further compounded by the fact that CMAS alerts automatically come in at a phone’s loudest volume setting.
As much as CMAS alerts can be helpful, many people just find themselves wondering how they can turn it off or disable it.
And this is especially true for people using devices with mobile operating system-related tech that isn’t actually a cellphone.
In general, you can approach the concept of turning off CMAS from three different angles.
There are different procedures for generalized cell phones and mobile devices, iPhones, and Android.
How Do I Get Rid of the CMAS Alert on My Cell Phone?
For better or worse, CMAS was designed and implemented around the idea of visibility.
It’s often hard to know in-depth what someone’s understanding of their phone, tablet, or mobile device will be.
And because of this, the CMAS system makes alerts very easy to see but often difficult to disable. The process of clearing CMAS alerts from your phone’s screen can often be surprisingly counterintuitive.
The first step to disabling a CMAS alert should always involve accessing the message in any way that your underlying mobile system allows.
For example, you might be able to tap the CMAS alert when it comes in to open up a new window. This new window may well be your normal texting app.
But tapping an alert message might just load up the messages app instead of a specific alert message. In that case, the CMAS alert might not disappear from your messages or get marked as read.
You often need to specifically load up the full alert in order to mark it as read. So if your CMAS alert came in as a text message, you need to actually open that text before the CMAS alert will go away.
But the messages might even be somewhat hidden. For example, a messaging app might have emergency notifications in the options rather than the list of standard texts.
Many people reported the following process to get rid of a CMAS alert from your cell phone’s screen:
Go to messages>options>Emergency Alerts>Wireless Emergency Alerts>options>settings and turn them off. Moreover, if you have several weather alert messages on your phone, go ahead and delete all these messages first before the CMAS alert will go away.
Can I Turn Off Emergency Alerts on My iPhone?
Turning off CMAS on an iPhone is surprisingly easy if you know what to look for. Unfortunately, Apple didn’t make it readily apparent just what you should be searching for in the first place.
To turn off CMAS on your iPhone you’ll want to go to your phone’s settings and then into notifications.
Near the bottom of the screen, you’ll find a “Government Alerts” section with a toggle for on and off. You simply need to toggle the option off.
The only caveat is that there are instances where local regulations might force you to keep the alerts on.
This is rare, but still something you should keep in mind. If that’s the case in your area then the toggle button will be greyed out and unusable.
How To Turn Off Amber Alerts on Android Phones
Turning CMAS off on Android can be a little more involved. Unfortunately, every Android device manufacturer has the option of moving things around on their devices.
As such, you can never be absolutely sure where various options will be found on an Android phone or tablet.
But with that in mind, you can generally turn off Amber alerts on Android devices by going into the settings and looking for the Apps & Notifications section.
From here, you’ll need to go into the Advanced Settings subcategory. This will bring up new options, including Wireless Emergency Alerts.
From here you should be able to simply disable Amber Alerts or any other type of emergency alert.
Again though, you can never quite be sure where any individual Android device will have specific settings.
If you don’t see Wireless Emergency Alerts under Apps & Notifications you’ll need to dive a little deeper into your phone’s underlying system.
When you go to settings you can perform a keyword search by typing into the Search Settings text bar.
If you type Emergency it should find the alert system. This will typically be titled “Emergency Alerts”.
You can click on the name, and if it loads as an app information screen you’ll want to click “Open” to launch the associated app.
The app will list any recent emergency alerts. But what you’re really looking for is the three-dot option that will let you enter the app’s settings.
When you do so you’ll be presented with a list of all possible CMAS alerts. You can turn off Amber alerts, public safety alerts, or any other type that you’d prefer not to see.