At 2PM EST on November 9, broadcasters across the country were scheduled to test the first nationwide alert system. Triggered by the White House, the system would’ve warned the masses in the U.S. of looming widespread emergencies — like, say, attacks by foreign enemies or other national disasters. Seems to me, in times of peril, something like this would be essential for public safety. Too bad the test failed.
Every TV channel and radio station in the country was supposed to air the test for 30 seconds. But while many U.S. residents saw the alerts intrude on their telenovelas or radio programs during the afternoon, others (like in New York) saw absolutely no interruptions at all.
Thing is, even if the test had worked perfectly, how useful would it have been in practical application? These days, traditional television viewership is waning in favor of DVR’ed content and streaming video, and radio audiences are defecting in favor of Mog, Rdio, Spotify, Pandora and other online alternatives. That means, when the… er, stuff hits the fan, new-media fans could be caught unawares.
I agree with Gizmo on this one — in this day and age, social networks should be key in any sort of emergency alert system. Those who eschew traditional broadcast platforms not only have a greater likelihood of having Twitter and Facebook accounts, but they’d probably be far more likely to tune into them than the old boob tube or any AM/FM stations. In fact, FEMA would do well to take a cue from city transit authorities and weather bureaus, many of whom have already taken to these services for emergency updates.
If there was an impending disaster or attack, would TV and radio notifications be enough for you to get the message? If not, what would be your preferred means of alert?