FCC Votes to Improve Emergency Smartphone Alerts With Longer Character Limits, Link Support

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Emergency alerts delivered to iPhones and other smartphones to warn customers about poor weather conditions, missing children, local crime, and more, may soon feature support for web links, photos, phone numbers, and longer message content.

The United States Federal Communications Commission on Thursday voted to expand emergency alerts from 90 to 360 characters on 4G and LTE networks, and to include support for links so people can follow up to get more information about an unfolding situation. As it stands, emergency alerts are short in length and often offer no resources for people to get in contact with emergency personnel if necessary.

Image via NBC

Wireless providers like Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile send these alerts and will be required to update their systems with support for the new features that have been mandated by the FCC.
"Vague directives in text about where to find more information about a suspect, just as we saw in New York, are not good enough," said Jessica Rosenworcel, an FCC commissioner. "As we move into the 5G future, we need to ensure that multimedia is available in all of our alert messages."
Carriers will also need to start supporting the transmission of Spanish language alerts and introduce a new type of safety alert designed to send "Emergency Governmental Information" like the locations of emergency shelters or an order to boil water before drinking.

The FCC's decision follows criticism of the emergency alert system after alerts were sent out in New York and New Jersey asking citizens to help track down a man suspected of setting off bombs in the area. The alert included a message advising people to "See media for pic," highlighting its shortcomings. It is not clear when the new rules will go into effect.

Article Link: FCC Votes to Improve Emergency Smartphone Alerts With Longer Character Limits, Link Support
 
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maflynn

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May 3, 2009
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I think these things are annoying as it stands, though perhaps with a more verbose message, the experience will be improved (but I doubt it)
 
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840quadra

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Feb 1, 2005
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I highly doubt systems need to be updated to support basic data alerts. Sounds like they are trying to get the taxpayers to pay to update their networks.
 

DotCom2

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Feb 22, 2009
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As long as we can still be able to mute them, they're fine. I hated being woken up at 3AM for a missing person.
When I received the most pounding disturbing sound in the middle of the night by an Amber Alert that scared the heck out of me so bad my heart was pounding, I had to turn Amber Alert OFF for good! This is a good idea but it needs to be refined so people don't have a heart attack and have another alert! LOL!
 
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nsayer

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Jan 23, 2003
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This entire thing is one of those ideas that sounds great until you think about it for more than a minute and a half. I turned it off the instant I got the first amber alert - which was for something happening 50 miles away from the business meeting that I was in the middle of (so I would have been of no help in any event).
 

Norbs12

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Apr 24, 2015
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Sadly, unless they let you customize the alerts, it's staying off on my phone. It's far too aggressive of an alert. I get it's supposed to be "very important" but I get important alerts just fine without any tones and I don't need a heart attack to get a message from the gubbament.
[doublepost=1475169921][/doublepost]
When I received the most pounding disturbing sound in the middle of the night by an Amber Alert that scared the heck out of me so bad my heart was pounding, I had to turn Amber Alert OFF for good! This is a good idea but it needs to be refined so people don't have a heart attack and have another alert! LOL!
Yeah it's pretty retarded, and the only settings are "WAKE UP NOW NUCLEAR ATTACK" loud or OFF. Oh well, off it is...
 

coolfactor

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Jul 29, 2002
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Vancouver, BC
I think these things are annoying as it stands, though perhaps with a more verbose message, the experience will be improved (but I doubt it)
And how do they coordinate with third-party notifications coming from the likes of Facebook? Do users of many systems get bombarded with notifications?
[doublepost=1475170351][/doublepost]
No such thing here in Canada yet.
Yah, I'm glad they mentioned "United States" in the article text, otherwise they are making it sound like a global feature. This is US-only, folks.
 

B4U

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I just had one of these alerts made me jump out of bed this morning!
Flash flood warning alert...

The question is, why only including Spanish?
 

GeneralChang

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Dec 2, 2013
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Oh, good, I would like a little more verbosity to those alerts. As is, they mostly just serve as a prompt to google something.
 

smithrh

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Feb 28, 2009
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I highly doubt systems need to be updated to support basic data alerts.
I worked with people designing, implementing and installing this and directly saw what was involved.

Yes, systems need to be updated to accommodate this.

* Before anyone asks, no I was not involved with this myself, and no I don't exactly like the way it turned out either, so don't complain to me.
 

truthertech

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Jun 24, 2016
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This entire thing is one of those ideas that sounds great until you think about it for more than a minute and a half. I turned it off the instant I got the first amber alert - which was for something happening 50 miles away from the business meeting that I was in the middle of (so I would have been of no help in any event).

You stopped too soon. You are right--you do have to think about it "for more than a minute and a half." ;) You don't understand the program. The Amber Alert program is not designed for you to run outside and get in your car and start looking for a suspect who took a child. It is to alert people who are already on the road or who might be out and about later and recognize a car's description, etc. You also complain that it was "50 miles away" from your business meeting. Realize that it is a judgment call, but when someone kidnaps a child they are likely to go mobile so law enforcement is not going to just send out an alert to the immediate neighborhood.

If you do leave the alerts on, and get the thankfully rare alert that interrupts your day, it might also help to remember the little girl,"Amber" behind the program and realize how successful the program has been in saving children. Amber Hagerman was a little 9-year-old girl who was abducted while riding her bicycle in Arlington, Texas, and was later found murdered. RIP. The Amber Alert program named in her honor has now led to finding 800 abducted children. Here's a link to those success stories that is updated regularly:

http://www.missingkids.com/amber/success

All that said, these programs need to continue to be refined and people should obviously continue to have the choice to mute or turn these off. Hopefully, the Emergency Broadcast alert program will continue to offer more customization as to types of alerts you want, weather, crime, etc., as well method, silent, vibrate, etc., and time of day, etc.
 

japanime

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Feb 27, 2006
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We're supposed to get earthquake alerts via iOS here in Japan, but the feature rarely works. I find the third-party alert apps to be much more accurate and robust.
 

sinsin07

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Mar 28, 2009
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When I received the most pounding disturbing sound in the middle of the night by an Amber Alert that scared the heck out of me so bad my heart was pounding, I had to turn Amber Alert OFF for good! This is a good idea but it needs to be refined so people don't have a heart attack and have another alert! LOL!
Wow. What drama.
 

GeneralChang

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Dec 2, 2013
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You stopped too soon. You are right--you do have to think about it "for more than a minute and a half." ;) You don't understand the program. The Amber Alert program is not designed for you to run outside and get in your car and start looking for a suspect who took a child. It is to alert people who are already on the road or who might be out and about later and recognize a car's description, etc. You also complain that it was "50 miles away" from your business meeting. Realize that it is a judgment call, but when someone kidnaps a child they are likely to go mobile so law enforcement is not going to just send out an alert to the immediate neighborhood.

If you do leave the alerts on, and get the thankfully rare alert that interrupts your day, it might also help to remember the little girl,"Amber" behind the program and realize how successful the program has been in saving children. Amber Hagerman was a little 9-year-old girl who was abducted while riding her bicycle in Arlington, Texas, and was later found murdered. RIP. The Amber Alert program named in her honor has now led to finding 800 abducted children. Here's a link to those success stories that is updated regularly:

http://www.missingkids.com/amber/success

All that said, these programs need to continue to be refined and people should obviously continue to have the choice to mute or turn these off. Hopefully, the Emergency Broadcast alert program will continue to offer more customization as to types of alerts you want, weather, crime, etc., as well method, silent, vibrate, etc., and time of day, etc.
Those stories are a fantastic little ray of sunshine. Thanks.
 

krause734

macrumors 6502a
Jul 30, 2010
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You stopped too soon. You are right--you do have to think about it "for more than a minute and a half." ;) You don't understand the program. The Amber Alert program is not designed for you to run outside and get in your car and start looking for a suspect who took a child. It is to alert people who are already on the road or who might be out and about later and recognize a car's description, etc. You also complain that it was "50 miles away" from your business meeting. Realize that it is a judgment call, but when someone kidnaps a child they are likely to go mobile so law enforcement is not going to just send out an alert to the immediate neighborhood.

If you do leave the alerts on, and get the thankfully rare alert that interrupts your day, it might also help to remember the little girl,"Amber" behind the program and realize how successful the program has been in saving children. Amber Hagerman was a little 9-year-old girl who was abducted while riding her bicycle in Arlington, Texas, and was later found murdered. RIP. The Amber Alert program named in her honor has now led to finding 800 abducted children. Here's a link to those success stories that is updated regularly:

http://www.missingkids.com/amber/success

All that said, these programs need to continue to be refined and people should obviously continue to have the choice to mute or turn these off. Hopefully, the Emergency Broadcast alert program will continue to offer more customization as to types of alerts you want, weather, crime, etc., as well method, silent, vibrate, etc., and time of day, etc.
I much prefer the pictures of the kids on the milk cartons
 

dbeattie

macrumors newbie
Sep 8, 2016
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Maine, USA
These messages are supposed to be going over Cell Broadcast which is different than SMS and data. So when the networks are down because too many people are trying to use them, Cell Broadcast still works. One message goes to all phones at one time so uses very minimal bandwidth. There are many limitations on what can be sent, but sending a link won't work if the networks are down from congestion, so getting the basic information in the message is the most important thing. The Cell Broadcast system has been part of the mobile spec for decades and I'm not 100% sure how they are done on LTE/5G networks, but I'm assuming they'd be similar. FEMA was involved in creating the cryptic messages and other countries have been using CB for many years.
 
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MachineShedFred

macrumors member
Aug 5, 2010
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And how do they coordinate with third-party notifications coming from the likes of Facebook? Do users of many systems get bombarded with notifications?
[doublepost=1475170351][/doublepost]
Yes. A couple weeks back there were warnings of flash floods here. I got push notifications from two different weather apps, and then a few minutes later, the OMFG LOUD AS FK emergency alert that caused me to turn that off for good.
[doublepost=1475176730][/doublepost]
You stopped too soon. You are right--you do have to think about it "for more than a minute and a half." ;) You don't understand the program. The Amber Alert program is not designed for you to run outside and get in your car and start looking for a suspect who took a child. It is to alert people who are already on the road or who might be out and about later and recognize a car's description, etc. You also complain that it was "50 miles away" from your business meeting. Realize that it is a judgment call, but when someone kidnaps a child they are likely to go mobile so law enforcement is not going to just send out an alert to the immediate neighborhood.

If you do leave the alerts on, and get the thankfully rare alert that interrupts your day, it might also help to remember the little girl,"Amber" behind the program and realize how successful the program has been in saving children. Amber Hagerman was a little 9-year-old girl who was abducted while riding her bicycle in Arlington, Texas, and was later found murdered. RIP. The Amber Alert program named in her honor has now led to finding 800 abducted children. Here's a link to those success stories that is updated regularly:

http://www.missingkids.com/amber/success

All that said, these programs need to continue to be refined and people should obviously continue to have the choice to mute or turn these off. Hopefully, the Emergency Broadcast alert program will continue to offer more customization as to types of alerts you want, weather, crime, etc., as well method, silent, vibrate, etc., and time of day, etc.
There's a few problems as currently implemented though.

1. Why is the alert sound the loudest sound to ever come out of my phone? Seriously, it's 2 to 3 times louder than the loudest sound ever emitted previously.

2. Chicken Little syndrome - if your phone makes this massively annoying sound too often, you soon either ignore it or turn it off, rendering the system useless.

3. When in a large building with lots of smartphones, it's comical how god damn loud this gets as 200 phones start blaring this sound simultaneously, and every single person scrambles to silence it while making exclamations of surprise and annoyance.

Those are the three that occur to me off the top of my head, and everyone I know has turned them off because it's just a bad implementation of a decent idea.