Last night, iPhone users in California got their first taste of what it's like to get an AMBER Alert notification on iOS. AMBER (America's Missing: Broadcasting Emergency Response) Alerts, named after the late Amber Hagerman, are also known as CAE (Child Abduction Emergency) and are typically delivered via SMS. On the iPhone 4S or iPhone 5, they come via push notification. Loudly. I received one in my area a month or so ago at around 4am and the sound it made was terrifying, waking me up from a dead sleep.
Apple has worked with carriers to provide government alerts, including AMBER and other emergency notifications, in the U.S. and other countries. Depending on the nature of the alert, which can include impending natural disasters, it's a great feature that can save a life, or many lives, not to mention prevent injury and property damage.
If, for some reason, you'd rather not receive government or AMBER alerts on one or several of your iOS devices, you can disable them.
Unfortunately, there's no way to customize a tone for for alerts. They're meant to get your attention, instantly, and big, loud, and noisy is the way to do that. If there's a tornado coming your way, you want to know about it.
We've had mixed reports of vibrate mode or Do Not Disturb mode muffling the emergency alerts, but don't believe that's supposed to be the case. Government alerts are supposed to blast through all of that.
If you received an AMBER or other emergency alert on your iPhone, what did you think of it? Was it helpful? Was it scary? Did you leave them turned on?