Alerting our Mobile Dependencies

I will admit up front that I’m not well versed on the top of mobile alerts to emergency situations, so what little I’m sharing here is only my morning’s knowledge. I also admit that my thoughts to simply remove something from my life for personal reason has actually led me down the path of discovery.

This morning I was thinking about why I still have a standard terrestrial radio in my car. I don’t use it that much for listening to music. My musical discoveries come from iTunes, Pandora radio, and the like. The only other need for my radio would be for EAS alerts (Emergency Alert System). I’m becoming, like many people, more and more dependent on my mobile device to do what I need. So, I thought to myself that if I could get mobile alerts for my local county and surrounding areas to my phone via SMS, I could actually get rid of my standard radio since I would have no other need for it.
Coincidentally, I happened to see this tweet this morning about CapitalAlert.gov which intrigued me further:

@levyj413 all of the local govts in the region are connected by a common emergency alert platform: http://www.capitalert.gov/less than a minute ago via web

However, my county alerts were not on this site. So I did wrote my county’s 911/Safety office and put in a plea for them to get tied into this system, push alerts out via SMS, email, and services like Twitter. Then I began searching for alerts via mobile phones and read more about AMBER Alerts, and something called Commercial Mobile Alert System (CMAS). From what I understand the CMAS is supposed to automatically push out AMBER alerts, weather alerts, and Presidential alerts via your cell provider…with and opt-out option. I’m not I’ve ever seen this in action yet and I’m very curious as to why and when it will actually happen.
Bottom line here is that in an ever-increasing mobile society, it’s extremely important that local, state, and federal alerting systems have the ability to distribute via SMS, email, RSS, Twitter, etc. I definitely see my personal use of standard radio going away and therefore I’ll never hear those “this is a test of the Emergency Alert System” commercials. It would also be wise for government to partner with companies, like Pandora radio, to push out those alerts (controllable with settings) through the Pandora stream when applicable.
Just some thoughts. And please note these thoughts are my own, not of my employer, and are not endorsed by and government organization.

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Chris Bennett

Glad to see you’re thinking about this, Scott. “Official government emergency alerting programs” have historically been slow to develop and far underutilized. EAS hasn’t been used ONCE since it’s inception decades ago, though stations are still required by law to run tests. Crazy, right?

Mobile emergency alerts are a growing trend and would be adopted more quickly I believe if costs were lower. It’s still 1-3 cents per message sent in addition to licensing a web-based system.

Pew reports that now 1 in 5 Americans have signed up for email or text alerts on local issues: http://pewinternet.org/Reports/2010/Neighbors-Online/Part-2/Email-and-Text-Message-Alerts.aspx

I suggest taking a look at these three blogs I’ve posted on GovLoop to give you my opinion on emergency alerting. Hope it’s useful.

CB2: Getting Emergency Notification Right
CB2: Social Alerting With Influence
CB2: Twitter Fast Follow for Crisis Alerting

Scott Horvath

Interesting. Thanks for the reads. So, if an organization wanted to setup their own notification system for their employees…not necessarily a county/state local alert system…what tools are available to make that happen. For example, if a building closure occurred, what’s the easiest tool to send out SMS to all employees who are signed up? Just curious.

You say it costs 1-3 cents per message to send an alert…but can’t you just send an email to [email protected] to email that phone number on Verizon’s network? That gets delivered via SMS, correct? Or not? That would be free.


Scott Horvath

Thanks for the info. We’re exactly looking for anything to meet that need right now, but it’s good to know that there are options available to make it easier. Thanks Chris.