Here’s what domestic violence victims need to do ahead of national emergency alert test

Oct 3, 2023, 6:29 PM | Updated: 6:43 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — Domestic violence organizations want to warn people of the FCC’s and FEMA’s national emergency alert test scheduled for 12:20 p.m. MST Wednesday.

The alert will emit a loud sound, similar to an amber alert on cell phones, radios, and TVs.

The Utah Domestic Violence Coalition is warning people in high-risk situations to be prepared for this nationwide test. A lot of victims have secondary phones they use to communicate with their safety network.

“If they suspect their abuser in a high stakes situation may take away their cell phone, they may want to have a cell phone in a different location, one that their abuser does not know about,” said UDVC communications specialist Kimmi Wolf.

Advocates said, if these secret phones start vibrating and make an attention-getting sound, it can compromise someone’s safety.

“If you are someone who has a secret cell phone, a cell phone that certain people don’t even know that you have, that cell phone going off is something that you aren’t aware of or you aren’t going to control, or you think you have it on silent, this isn’t something that you can prevent from sounding a very jarring sound,” Wolf said.

Unlike other government alerts, users will not be able to opt out of this test. Adjusting settings won’t be enough. This test will hit every single cell phone within range of a cell tower.

The coalition said turning the phone on silent or turning it off is not enough.

“We suggest that you take out the battery and be very clear that you are physically removing the battery from the cell phone,” Wolf said.

The coalition also doesn’t recommend handing off a secondary phone to a trusted friend. For some victims, that phone is the only way they can communicate with others or call 911.

“If I advise you to put the cell phone in a different location, give it to someone else to hold, if you happen to need the cell phone before you can get it back or that day, that kind of defeats the purpose,” Wolf said.

She said the secondary phone can be a lifeline when their primary phone is constantly being watched.

“Domestic violence is happening in terms of monitoring people’s happenings, their whereabouts, their messages, tracking their location,” Wolf said.

A secret phone can also help a victim access resources online.

“Sometimes it is unsafe for someone to take a pamphlet from us,” Wolf said. “If you’re with your abuser, you don’t want to be seen taking potential resources.”

Wolf said domestic violence victims should be prepared to hear the noise from their primary phone, too.

“If you are in a high-stress situation, you’re listening for alerts, for any type of odd sound, this could be a very panic-inducing sound for many people,” she said.

She said like any test, people should be prepared for it.

“We’re trying to make sure that people know that this is going to happen,” Wolf said.

Domestic violence resources

If you or someone you know is going through abuse, help is available.

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Here’s what domestic violence victims need to do ahead of national emergency alert test