Should the public send emergency alerts?

The public is often the first to witness a threat and to inform government authorities of it. Why not empower the public to send the alert?

Alerting the public of disasters and hazards is traditionally considered the responsibility of the government. Why does it have to be that way? Why can’t the public, themselves, also alert? Using the same trustworthy and reliable tools that government uses?

The public is often the first to witness a threat and to inform government authorities of it who then alert the mass public. Why not empower the public to send the alert, themselves?

There’s a laundry list of reasons why not. The reasons why not to allow the public to access government alerting channels involve the risks of:

  • Abuse, 
  • Mis-use; 
  • Over-use; and
  • Different opinions on what constitutes an emergency.

No one wants to see fake alerts (abuse), alerts that have nothing to do with public safety or contain misinformation (mis-use), or too many or duplicate alerts sent for the same event (over-use).  The public can sometimes only see a small piece of a larger puzzle and the alerts could be sending misinformation even if the person sending the alerts is doing the best they can to keep things as accurate and helpful as possible.  The question then is how do we come to an agreement on what an emergency is and when an alert is justified? 


Another challenge with public alerts is that there are times that the public does not actually want to receive emergency alerts. This has occurred multiple times when an Amber Alert has been issued.  Read more about this issue here:

An ‘official’ public emergency alerting platform available to all to send alerts would need to safeguard against abuse, mis-use, and over-use. But the benefits to public safety and the economy are immense if those safeguards could be achieved.

Do you think it’s possible to build these safeguards into a shared public emergency alerting platform? A platform that is used by government and the general public alike to send emergency alerts?

Our CTO Jacob Westfall had a great conversation with Hazardscape on this topic, watch the video:



Take care. Be prepared.

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