How emergency alerts can put abuse victims at risk

On Wednesday FEMA will broadcast an emergency alert message to phones all over the country.
Published: Oct. 3, 2023 at 6:28 PM MDT
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - On Wednesday, FEMA will broadcast an emergency alert message to phones all over the country, but what if receiving that message could put you in danger?

Hidden or emergency phones are often carried by the victims of domestic violence. There can be a variety of reasons to carry one of these but Kristina Simmons with Working Against Violence Inc says it’s mainly about retaking control.

“So communication can be another form of control, often times victims do need to hide say like a burner phone or a cell phone that someone has given to them. So when the emergency response is going off we’re reminding clients and the public that if you do have a hidden phone somewhere for communication to make sure it’s turned off,” said Simmons.

Alexa White with Pennington County’s Emergency Management says keeping the phone off for the entirety of the message is crucial.

“Right, and another device that you might have that you have turned off would have received that if it was on and I would wait the thirty-minute window because it will still continue to look for phones that haven’t received the message in that thirty-minute window,” said White.

The blow-back of an abusive partner finding one of these devices can be severe.

“If the phone were found there could be consequences to that it could be they’re verbally abused, physically abused, and it could even be deadly. So again, that lifeline might be the only thing they have to reach family, friends, or outside support,” said Simmons.

The message will broadcast around 12:20 p.m. Wednesday so Simmons is recommending those affected keep hidden devices off until at least 1 p.m.