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Emergency alerts just became better—but there’s still work to be done

This week, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to increase the character count of wireless emergency alerts (WEAs)—such as the one New Yorkers received last week—from 90 characters to 360 characters. The FCC also tweaked the rules to fine-tune geotargeting, offer Spanish-language alerts, and allow for embedded links and phone numbers.

But the alerts still won’t include embedded photos, though it seems this is something the FCC is working on. One approach that might work better is an app-style interface, according to Bob Iannucci, a Carnegie Mellon professor doing research on improving WEA. As I wrote recently

The CMU team is advocating for a new interface that would better reflect how we consume information in this day—say, an app with a stamp of approval from Homeland Security ensuring the messages are authentic. “Once it is cast as an app, the possibilities of having it evolve more quickly and incorporate rich media and so on becomes something that’s much more realizable,” Iannucci said. WEA alerts could then be made to look more like what users are familiar with, like a web page.

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