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Be alert (your country needs lerts)

Paul Brislen, Editor. 27 November 2017, 7:29 am

The Civil Defence Emergency Mobile Alert system has been tested with relatively few problems to iron out.

Civil Defence has decided that sending police cars with their sirens wailing to warn residents of floods, fire, tsunami, earthquake volcano, zombie apocalypse and other similar activities, just doesn't cut it in the 21st Century.

The previous minister in charge of Civil Defence called for a more technological solution and suggested perhaps mobile phones might hold the answer, and so CDNZ began the $14 million project.

Early concern was raised around the idea of having to have an app (ruled out as not everyone has a smart phone, although that problem is rapidly diminishing) or using the TXT message platforms (which would struggle to send out hundreds of thousands of TXTs simultaneously) but in the end a dedicated emergency message channel was inaugurated which allows CDNZ to connect directly with phones in the designated emergency zone. 

The test was not without wrinkles, however. While an earlier test managed to leak into the wild at the welcome time of 1.30am, this more civilised 6pm on a Sunday night test showed stark differences between the experience on Apple's iOS platform and the various flavours of Google's Android operating system.

While Apple users were treated to a "notification" and could access it in the usual way (by dragging the tool bar down from the top of the screen), Droid users saw many and varied results and those who had seen the message but then wanted to read it again struggled to find it. Some found it in Messages>More>Broadcasts while others searched for "Emergency" and found it in a folder marked History. 

Users on both sides of the technological divide also found they were less likely to get the message if they weren't on the latest version of the OS.

Amusingly, some Android users reported the message as being headlined, "Presidential Alert".

Two users reported not seeing the message on Apple's platofrm: one running an iPhone 7 and the other the latest iPhone X. This writer suspects user error.

Not everyone welcomes the idea of a civil defence alert, however. A post to the New Zealand Tech Start-Ups Eco-System Facebook group decrying the message received a lot of attention and not a little bit of anger from the associated tech start-ups that such a useful service would be deemed unnecessary.

Sadly for the poster, and for the one supporter who also didn't want such things, the emergency mobile alert isn't optional and there is no way to turn it off. Still, when the zombies swarm slowly but inevitably across the Bombay Hills (I'm not saying in which direction) we'll all be able to react accordingly.


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