A Deadly Decision – Government Alerts

The biggest problem is how this alert just took over my phone. Again, I’m driving! While it is important to know that there’s a “Flash Flood Warning”, I already knew the weather risk. That’s why I was driving. So instead of helping me, the alert was impeding my safe travel.

Sure, there was no real danger, as I was using navigation more as a technological novelty. But if I was in real driving trouble, Apple and “The Government” worsened the situation. I could have missed my turn. I could have been in an accident related to distracted driving. I could have ended up dead. That alert was loud. I’m not sure what it would have done to someone suffering from a heart condition or panic attacks. Even if the alert doesn’t bother me. Even if I’m not using it. The car next to me might.

So, what can be done to avoid this from happening next time? That’s the “Deadly Decision”. By going to… Settings > Notifications > Government Alerts …the AMBER Alerts and Emergency Alerts can be turned off. I don’t feel good about this. If everyone simply turns off the alerts, because they’re terribly annoying, then the effectiveness of the system is lost.

Additionally, if I turn off the “Emergency Alerts”, then I’ll miss out on potentially life saving information.

What should happen instead? Here are some ideas.

  • Perhaps emergency alerts should be treated like a regular text message or an iMessage. Those notifications don’t take over my phone. And since I frequently check my messages, I’ll likely notice the message – but when it’s safe to do so. At least having the option would be nice. Instead of simply turning them off, I can just downgrade the notification level.

Do Not Disturb While DrivingAt the 2017 WWDC, Craig Federighi explains”Do Not Disturb While Driving” – a new feature in iOS 11. Perhaps that should apply to Emergency Alerts.

  • Perhaps Siri should read the message instead of displaying it. If I’m driving, I don’t want to read text on my iPhone. It’s simply not safe. Siri just previously told me about a traffic incident ahead, why couldn’t she read the emergency alerts while the navigation app was running?
  • Perhaps “The Government” should find another toy to play with. It must feel pretty powerful to send a text message to so many people… an unblockable message, with a custom alert sound. Do you want to use emoji too?! Yet, I received two of these messages while driving yesterday. It felt totally unnecessary. “With great power comes great responsibility.” I think the National Weather Service should reserve these types of notifications for something more dire.