Speed Reads

the way we live now

The emergency alert New Yorkers got this morning was one of a kind

Just before 8 a.m. Monday morning, millions of people in the New York City area received blaring alerts on their phones with the message: "WANTED: Ahmad Khan Rahami, 28-yr-old male. See media for pic. Call 9-1-1 if seen."

The notifications came from the Wireless Emergency Alert system, which up until Monday had been mainly used for weather advisories and Amber Alerts. But coinciding with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio's release of Rahami's name and photograph, the notification system "deployed … an electronic wanted poster" for what The New York Times says is "believed to be the first time."

Rahami is the primary suspect in the New York and New Jersey bombings that took place over the weekend. The emergency alert system was also used Saturday night after the explosion in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood, cautioning people directly in the area to stay away from their windows while police cleared a second bomb found on 27th Street. The electronic wanted poster sent Monday targeted everyone in the immediate New York City area. Other than that, the system has been used only eight times since 2012 in New York City, including three times during Hurricane Sandy.

Emergency alerts fit three categories: weather and public safety threats, Amber Alerts, and also presidential alerts, which can't be blocked.

Rahami was taken into custody late Monday morning in New Jersey when a witness called the police after spotting him sleeping in a doorway. When the police officer went to wake the man, he realized it was the bombing suspect.