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Emergency alerts on your phone: Why you're receiving them

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PHOENIX -

By now you've probably been startled and scared by those loud emergency alert warnings on your cell phones when the storms have been moving in. Most of us just started hearing those for the first time in the past few weeks.

A new law allowing these alerts went into effect last year. But recently those alerts have been rolled out to cover more phone devices, and just this week residents in the valley got a number of alerts -- warning of dust storms and an amber alert.

"I was thinking that the world might come to an end is the first response that I had!" said Mike McQuial.

But after taking a look at your cell phone, you likely saw something like this. It's part of the wireless emergency alert system. Warning of weather emergencies, and amber alerts, all targeted to your area.

"It's almost a little big brother, like how do they know the phones in the area," said Danna Rahl.

Government agencies send messages to the towers in your area -- and the phone carriers send those messages to your phone.

"I'd like to turn it off."

You can opt out of receiving almost all of these notifications, but as I quickly find out, on some phone it can be tricky.

You may need to call your provider for instructions. On an iPhone, go to "notifications" in your settings to turn it off.

"I've lived in Arizona long enough to look in the sky and know if I should take action. I want to know if there is something I can do for that one."

You can't opt out of presidential alerts -- they are notifications issued by the president.

"I think it's amazing that they have ability to get that info out to everybody," said Mark Rahl.

Even if you block text messaging you will still receive these alerts -- but they are at no cost to you. You can turn most all of these alerts off, except ones coming from the president, which no one has yet received.

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