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Emergency Alerts and Hidden Devices

October 3, 2023

This post originally appeared on, a project of the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV).

Survivors of domestic violence are creative, resourceful, resilient, and tech-savvy. They often devise unique strategies to protect themselves and maintain their privacy and safety. One of the strategies that survivors may use is having a hidden phone, which often serves as a lifeline for connecting to support and assistance.

On Wednesday, October 4, 2023 at 2:20pm ET (1:20pm CT/12:20pm MT/11:20am PT), every cell phone user nationwide will receive a Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA). WEA tests are sent out by authorized government agencies to ensure that every cellphone can receive warnings about national emergencies such as natural disasters, public safety threats, and more.

While these alerts are invaluable for public safety, they can pose risks to survivors who have hidden phones by alerting the abuser that the phone exists. Receiving alerts such as Amber Alerts is a common occurrence for those with a cellphone and is a feature you can turn off through your phone settings for year-round protection from unexpected alerts. However, this upcoming national test is not an alert that can be disabled or turned off within the device. Therefore, survivors should power off their devices during the test and not schedule phone calls on their hidden cellphone during that time.

The decision to have a hidden device is one that a survivor should make with careful consideration based on the potential risks involved. In some situations, it may not be safe or advisable to have a hidden device, as it could escalate violence or lead to further harm if the device is discovered. Survivors should always trust their instincts and prioritize their safety about everything.

Read more about how survivors who own hidden devices can protect themselves ahead of the upcoming WEA test alert and learn more about securing devices and accounts in our recently created resource in partnership with Norton.

If it is safe to do so, survivors can always contact one of the national hotlines to get connected with a local advocate who can provide them with safety planning support, and information about local resources.