On ‘Statewide Emergency Alert Tests’

This morning, anyone with a smartphone in the state of Tennessee got two back-to-back emergency alerts:

The alerts were part of a statewide test:

“This year, in Tennessee and across the nation, natural and human-caused disasters have taken lives, destroyed homes and damaged roads and infrastructure,” said TEMA Director Patrick Sheehan. “While we live in some of the safest times in history, these fires, storms, flash-floods, heatwaves, tornadoes, accidents, and active shooter tragedies serve as reminders of the importance of being aware of the potential threats around us and to prepare ourselves and our loved ones. This statewide EAS test message will recognize National Preparedness Month and emphasize the importance of emergency preparedness.”

While the state claims the test was “designed to have limited impact on the public,” I call bullshit. It’s like the boy who cried wolf; emergency alerts should be used for emergencies.

Having two back-to-back alerts1 that most people will consider spam will tempt some to disable the feature. If Tennessee — or any other state — can’t see that as an obvious outcome, I just don’t know what to say.

Update: Tennessee has issued an apology for the tests:

We have received calls and messages from hundreds of Tennesseans letting us know about problems with receiving messages and the concerns caused by the messages received. In many instances the caveats that the message was part of a test were not received, making it seem like an emergency was imminent. While many are understanding, knowing that we need to test our systems, many have voiced their concerns about the angst this test cause. Please accept my sincerest apologies for any inconvenience today’s test caused.