Alert, Alert, And More Alerts

Alert, Alert, And More Alerts

No this is not an alert, but some strategic thinking about alerts.

As a kid, we get our first alerts usually from the fire alarm going off in school and practicing the buddy system and safely evacuating.

As adults, we are used to get so many types of alerts:

– Homeland Security threat alerts
– Breaking news alerts
– Emergency/Disaster alerts
– Severe weather alerts
– Smog alerts
– Transportation delay alerts
– Accident alerts
– Fraud alerts
– Economic and financial alerts
– Amber missing child alerts
– Internet security alerts
– Power loss alerts
– Home or business intruder alerts
– Fire alerts
– Carbon Monoxide alerts
– Medical/health alerts
– Chemical spill alerts
– Product safety or recall alerts
– Unsafe drinking water alerts
– Active shooter alerts
– Work closure alerts
– Parking garage alerts
– Dangerous marine life alerts
– Dangerous current or undertow alerts
– Air raid siren alerts
– Solar eclipse alerts
– Meteorite or falling space debris alerts
– Special sale or promotional event alerts

With the arrival of highly successful, mass social media applications like Twitter, we have alerts aggregated for us and listed chronologically as things are happening real-time.

The brilliance of the current Twitter-type alerting is that we can sign up to follow whatever alerts we are interested in and then have a streaming feed of them.

The alerts are short–up to 140 characters–so you can quickly see the essence of what is happening or ignore what is irrelevant to you.

When more space is needed to explain the details behind an alert, typically a (shortened) URL is included, which if you click on it takes you to a more in depth explanation of the event or item.

So alerts are a terrific balance between short, attention grabbing headlines and links to more detail, as needed.

What is also great about the current alerting mechanism is that you can provide concise alert information, including:

– Message source (for ensuring reliability)
– Guidance (for providing immediate instruction on response).
– Hazard (for specifying the type of incident)
– Location (for identifying geographic or mapping locality)
– Date/time (for implications as to its currency)
– Importance (for determining severity such as catastrophic, critical, etc.)

While we remain ever, hyper-vigilant, we need to be careful not to become anxiety-ridden, or at some point, simply learn to tune it all out, so we can actually live life and get stuff done.

It’s good to know what’s going on out there, but can too much information ever become a bad thing? πŸ˜‰

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Emergency Alert Or R U Kidding?

Emergency Alert Or R U Kidding?

BBC News Technology (9 July 2013) reports on how the U.S. Emergency Alert System (EAS) was hacked.

The EAS is a program of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and was set up “to allow the president to talk to the entire country within 10 minutes of a disaster.” It also provides the public with alerts on local weather emergencies, such as tornados and flash floods.

EAS replaced the Emergency Broadcast System (EBS) in 1997 and with it came security weaknesses.

Earlier this year, those vulnerabilities were tested and exploited when the Montana Television Network was hacked with an alert of a zombie attack.

And it provided advice on how to survive–“Do not approach or apprehend these bodies as they are considered extremely dangerous.”

This is reminiscent of the hoax in 1938 when over the radio came a warning that a meteorite had smashed into New Jersey and aliens were attacking New York–an adaptation of H.G. Wells “War of the Worlds.”

Well yesterday it was aliens, today it’s zombies, and tomorrow it could be an phony announcement of an invasion by country XYZ or perhaps a imminent detonation of a thermonuclear warhead somewhere over the continental U.S.

Imagine the panic, confusion, and potential loss of life and property from the ensuing chaos.

It goes without saying that this is not a way to inspire confidence by the citizens in case of a true national emergency.

If we cannot count on the systems meant to survive an emergency then how can we be expected to survive the emergency itself?

The EAS may interrupt your regularly scheduled programming with those loud and annoying tests, but what can really ruin you day is a cyber attack on the system that broadcasts something much nastier and more ominous–and you don’t really know whether it’s the real thing or just another hack. πŸ˜‰

(Source Photo: here with attribution to UWW ResNet)