FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Friday, December 03, 2004

Texting for Emergency Management

Washington DC and New York City have implemented text messaging systems to keep the public informed during major city-wide emergencies, whether they be weather events, terrorist attacks or blackouts like that which struck NYC in August 2003. The home page of DC Text Alert states: "When an incident or emergency occurs, authorized DC Emergency Management personnel can rapidly notify you using this community alert system. DC Text Alert is your personal connection to real-time updates, instructions on where to go, what to do, or what not to do, who to contact and other important information." The DC system uses SMS, whereas the New York City OEM system issues e-mail alerts that can be received by text-capable pagers and cell phones.

Although tech-savvy observers are heartened by the forward-thinking view of both cities, many question the actual usefulness of such messaging, noting the immaturity of the technology. Others point out that, on 9/11, most cell phone service in and around NYC was knocked out, and other circuits were overloaded. For the time being, portable radios may be the better solution for those wishing to stay informed during a crisis.

Sources: Smart Mobs, WorldChanging