SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News)— Today at 2:20 pm, Phones and TV will play an emergency Alert, but it is only a test. This alert is enacted by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to assess their system and check how many devices are getting the notification. Wireless carriers and television providers will create a report on the success of the test so changes can be made if certain devices did not receive the test, according to FEMA.
However, people who face domestic violence who own hidden phones might be in danger. Many have these phones as a lifeline so they can communicate with others without being monitored, as their main devices are controlled by their partner. According to Sok, 50-60% of the clients at Vera House own hidden phones.
“In recent years, as technology use has increased, the ways that folks can cause harm to others and control them through technology has increased as well,” SJ Sok, the director of advocacy at Vera House, said. “One of the tactics that we see a lot in relationships where folks are causing harm to one another is when one partner will have the phones or devices in their control in some way, whether that’s whether they pay for them or it’s linked to their iCloud account or they’re the account holders, they can see the activity.”
This emergency alert could disclose the secrecy of the phones if not fully turned off or around a constraining partner. Anything that triggers a change in someone’s behavior could lead to violence.
“Any time that someone who is controlling their partner finds out that they are trying to subvert that in any way increases the risk of danger substantially,” Sok said. “It could even elicit violent reactions from them, especially if they were to go through the phone or get access to the phone.”
According to FEMA, all phones that are tracked by a cellular tower will go off. This includes devices that are not smartphones, like phones bought from the gas station.
“To receive text messages, this year,” Antwane Johnson, the FEMA IPAW systems doctor, said, “ that message will be sent to all compatible cellular phones that are turned on and in range of cellular service. Providers that participate in WEA (Wireless Emergency Alerts) are required to deliver this text message which will be accompanied by a unique tone and vibration.”
Sok said that this test alert isn’t common knowledge for Vera house clients, as many are being isolated in multiple ways by their partners. This could mean that news or social media could be restricted.
Sok wants people to know this message: “There’s no way to turn off the notification. So if you are worried or you’re in close proximity to someone who might be able to find this device that would make it unsafe if they discovered it, make sure that it’s powered off or in a location where that person can’t hear this alert go off.”
Lieutenant Matthew Malinowski of the police department says instead of having to prepare for these issues, people with hidden phones should rethink their current relationships
“I think if you’re in a type of relationship or you need a hidden phone,” Malinowski said, “you probably have to think a little bit more about getting some resources because I don’t know that that’s the best practice for a relationship.”
If you are in need of assistance, please call the domestic violence hotline at (800) 799-7233 or you can call Vera House’s 24 support line at (315) 468-3260. For more information and resources, you can go to https://www.verahouse.org/