According to Mashable, most cell phone providers are now implementing a system called Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) to notify their wireless subscribers to weather advisories and missing person reports among many other scenarios. They were used on Thursday in the New England states to prepare people for winter storm Nemo. While it was mainly a test of the service, many people were still upset when they did not receive a notification when their friends did. Verizon seems to have the system working the best with a large number of subscribers receiving their notifications in the New York City Area, followed by Sprint and T-Mobile who notified many of their subscribers as well. The biggest problem was AT&T’s subscribers received no such message. This sparked a big outcry among AT&T customers as to why subscribers of other providers received the notification but they did not. AT&T responded that they expect WEAs to be available on their network sometime this year. This messaging system, albeit not completely operational, will be a fantastic advancement in terms of notifying many people quickly to events like disasters, extreme weather, Amber alerts, and “Presidential” alerts. This kind of system has been of great help among school settings.
Although it seems that this kind of technology should have been implemented years ago, it is good that it is at least being worked on now. Being able to notify every cell phone user in a certain area, whether they live there or not, is a big advancement in terms of notifying people quickly to dangerous situations. I believe the next step would be to connect systems like fire alarms in buildings to a computer who can immediately send a message to everyone in the building as soon as the alarm has been set off, thus shortening the time between the event occurring and the notification of the people in the affected area.