What good’s a warning that causes people to disable it?

Emergency Alert settingsLast night at 1:40am I was wrenched out of sleep by a CMAS warning. These are for tornadoes and Amber Alerts. Last night was the latter as a latchkey kid 157 miles from my house had gone missing sometime following 8:20pm with no signs of foul play evident.

Please take note, this is not me bitching about an Amber Alert at 1:40am. I strongly believe there is foul play involved. I’m writing about the alarm mechanism that’s failing because people are disabling it.

I remember looking at the alert and thinking that the only person who would be seeing this would be the potential kidnapper. I silenced the alerts (other devices went off as well,) and went back to sleep as I did not expect to run into this child between 1:40am and when I got on the road at 7.

If you haven’t gotten a severe weather warning or an Amber Alert here’s what happens – multiple devices start blasting the loudest shriek they can to make sure you’re awake and paying attention.

You usually blindly stumble to throw your phone through a wall to disable the sound and hunt down the next device that’s making the noise. In last night’s case it was my wife’s phone. You then have to hope you got everything silenced before the babies wake up.

On Sprint from what I can gather we got alerts from 1:40-1:42 am. We were the lucky ones. One alert.

I got into my child’s daycare and it was like a pre-coffee civilization. Everyone dragging feet. I found out other carriers had notified people from 1:40am-5am repeatedly. My youngest’s teacher pulled her phone out and showed me four alerts. She’d been awake since 1:40am and thanked T-Mobile and John Legere for her very productive day.

Emergency Alert settingsI left and witnessed two fender benders on the way to work. I’m unsure if they were ambien zombies, bad drivers, or just tired. Pulled into my normally packed office where there were five cars. People’re taking it slow today.

The overwhelming question to Paul “the phone guy,” is how to disable these alarms. This is a bad question as they’re potentially incredibly useful (they are, trust me,) but that’s the question people are asking rather than how do we fix repeat alarms and not wake people for information they can’t use until they’re conscious.

Currently there’s no logic mechanism in place such that if you’re driving or riding a motorcycle with a headset the alarm doesn’t go off. Imagine 60,000 people on the road scrambling to hunt down and shut their screaming phones off at the same time. Think streaming music at high volumes then getting blasted by a siren shriek trying to get your attention.

There’s also nothing to differentiate a missing person from a tornado warning.

There’s also no mechanism it appears to prevent the same alert from hitting your phone over and over again as it does some when their phone switches towers.

Your current options are to disable the alerts, switch to vibrate, or have the insane tone. There are no hours definable, nor can you prioritize a tornado to force an alarm over an Amber Alert. I mean don’t get me wrong, I want to see both of these, but I only want to be woken repeatedly by one of the alarms. I also don’t want an overwhelming siren being broadcast via bluetooth to my car as I’m driving and jamming out to some tunes.

So people decide to turn off the alerts. This is bad. Unfortunately these 1:40am alerts and carriers pushing them multiple times are causing a Chicken Little/Boy Who Cried Wolf situation.

Customization is needed. The option to change to a non-shrieking tone. The option to audibly read out what the alert is in the event you’re driving and want to know what’s up.

So yeah, get on that someone. Get on it before too many people have decided to disable potentially life saving information.

Once again I’m not bitching that an alert at 1:40am was broadcast to over 7 million people, just that there’s no way to differentiate between “you need to be awake now,” “you need this information while you’re driving,” “you can look at this when it’s safe to look at it,” and “get some sleep, you need this info but not if you’re unconscious”.

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