FCC Approves Targeted Alert System to Let People Know About Natural Disasters

Residents in areas affected by natural disasters will soon be able to get more targeted emergency alerts instead of getting a general message on their phones.

According to Emergency Management, public safety officials will now be able to send alerts to those who are one-tenth of a mile in radius from a disaster. This was approved by the FCC and will help keep chaos levels down.

Many people in California during the wildfires, for example, were subject to alerts that weren’t near them at all. This new targeted system will be able to reach those who are specifically affected, alleviating the stress of many others who won’t be directly impacted.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai released a statement regarding this new targeted alert system.

“When disaster strikes, it’s essential that Americans in harm’s way get reliable information so that they can stay safe and protect their loved ones,” he said. “Overbroad alerting can cause public confusion, lead some to opt out of receiving alerts altogether, and, in many instances, complicate rescue efforts by unnecessarily causing traffic congestion and overloading call centers.”

In the wake of the 2017 major natural disaster season, the old way of alerting people to disasters simply wasn’t good enough. It alerted too many people about a disaster that didn’t impact a lot of them and actually caused them to put themselves in harm’s way.

Many frustrations of alerts gone wrong spur from the infamous Hawaii fake-missile message. An alert was sent out to everyone in Hawaii telling them to take shelter as they were under attack. We now know that this wasn’t the case.

NPR spoke with Commission Chairman Ajit Pai, who said that the state didn’t have anything in place to prevent human error or fix it as soon as it was done. All of the other states in the U.S. are taking note following the incident. This is one way in which the newer targeted system can actually help in preventing mass chaos.

About 90% of all of the natural disasters in the U.S. declared by the President are said to involve some form of flooding. The targeted messages will specifically alert those who are in the areas of that flooding, reducing panic of a large group of people and keeping everyone in line.

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