Emergency text messaging service flaws will hinder usefulness

” The Federal Communications Commission recently approved a national emergency text messaging system. That’s right. If the country is attacked by terrorists or a natural disaster, you could be alerted via cell phone. But that’s just one of three categories of emergency warnings.”

The Federal Communications Commission recently approved a national emergency text messaging system.

That’s right. If the country is attacked by terrorists or a natural disaster, you could be alerted via cell phone.

But that’s just one of three categories of emergency warnings.

You can also opt in to receive text messages about tornadoes, hurricanes and threatening criminal situations. Finally, you can choose Amber Alerts regarding child abductions.

No word yet on whether these messages will be filtered. For instance, will Amber Alerts be sent to every subscriber? Will millions of cell phone users in Ohio have to read about a missing child in, say, Oregon? And Georgia? And New Hampshire?

At the same time, how do you filter the messages? While a warning about a tornado in Florida might not be relevant to someone trekking across the University of Akron campus, if that person is on Spring Break in Florida, well it might be.

There are all kinds of bugs that can potentially pop up. If every subscriber gets every text message warning, they’ll be inundated. And, once you start reading and deleting that many alerts each day, the sense of importance and urgency you associate with such warnings will likely drop. Quickly.

Wireless subscribers will have to opt out of the three-tiered service or be subjected to the non-stop messaging. There are other issues. The messages are only in English. And there is a 90-character maximum.

Are you starting to see potential problems?

Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon and AT & T have already announced that they will participate.

Interestingly enough, they are not planning to charge users for these text messages.

A Verizon exec recently stated that while the program is slated to be launched in 2010, most cell phones will not be compatible with the program until about … 2013.

And who do you think might be in charge of this program? Well, it’s still in planning stages, but all signs point to … FEMA.

The same agency that so efficiently handled Hurricane Katrina less than three years ago might be coordinating a text-messaging service to 225 million Americans. Oh yeah, I like the sound of this.