NYC Bombing Places Emergency Alert System On Center Stage

Posted on October 13, 2016.

emergency-alert systemThe recent bombing in New York City placed the government’s emergency alert system at the center of the public’s attention. As millions of people frantically scrambled for any information available, they all received a mass alert about a bombing suspect that included the phrase “See media for pic.” Due to the constraints of the old technology that the U.S. alert system currently operates on, the mass notification was limited to 90 characters of text. Chief Alan Perdue (Ret.), Executive Director of the Safer Buildings Coalition, offers his comments on the event:

“Mass notification emergency alert systems are a great resource for notifying people of important information related to a current or impending incident. However, a critical component to the success of the system is that those being notified actually receive the message.  Adequate signal coverage for both the public and public safety personnel including inside buildings is paramount to everyone’s safety. Make sure those you love have coverage where they work, play and live…  ” 

Below you’ll find a brief snippet from The Wall Street Journal‘s coverage of the NYC bombing: 

“‘The Federal Communications Commission plans to vote later this month on rules that would add more features to alerts, potentially including longer messages and web links to photos. The wireless industry supports expanding the message length, but has resisted other changes, fearing they will overwhelm networks.

On Monday morning, an alert was sent seeking help locating Ahmad Khan Rahami, a suspect in the New York City bombing. Mr. Rahami was taken into custody hours later, and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said the alert was ‘extremely helpful’ in tracking the suspect down in Linden, N.J.

‘We think it created a lot of focus and urgency,’ Mr. de Blasio said. ‘From what we know right now, it definitely contributed to the successful apprehension of this suspect. This is a tool we will use again in the future…’

… Last November, the FCC proposed rules that would expand messages to 360 characters and improve geo-fencing accuracy, as well as allow for the inclusion of phone numbers and web links to pictures in missing-children alerts.

Officials in New York City agree the system needs to be updated for the smartphone era and for sending non-English messages. But they caution the system must remain accessible to the widest possible group of users, including people with basic cellphones or tourists visiting with different types of devices.”

FCC Votes To Change Emergency Alert System

As a result of the display of a somewhat flawed emergency alert system On September 29, 2016, the FCC voted that emergency alerts be allowed to transmit messages up to 360 characters, and that all wireless carriers must support Spanish -language alerts. You can read more about the FCC’s vote here.

Sources: The Wall Street Journal, CNN Money.

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