The Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management is rolling out the Emergency Mobile Alert channel on 26 November 2017.
Between 1800 and 1900 hours that day (Sunday), phones capable of receiving an alert message will do so. This is expected to be about 1/3 of all New Zealand cellphone users and is forecast to rise substantially as people upgrade their phones. At the moment my own Huawei P8 Lite falls just outside the range of Huawei devices expected to receive the message.
This is all well and good, but whilst most of New Zealand will eventually be able to receive the messages, there is going to be – like there always has been – a small section of society for which this simply will not happen. Most of the people in this group will be elderly people with little or no social contact, who have not got a mobile phone and who are most likely not going to be familiar with the technology. Others will include new comers to New Zealand such as recent migrants, refugees and asylum seekers who might still be getting established, or who are established but use dumb phones. – ones that only receive basic text messages and calls.
The message will need to go out in multiple languages. Not everyone is going to understand what the emergency messages are about because of language barriers. If they do understand, they might not realize that it is just a test and not an actual emergency.
The message will also need to able to be made louder for hearing impaired, or visually improved for those with vision impairment.
But this new measure, welcome as it most certainly is, DOES NOT supercede taking action if you feel unsafe. The Civil Defence message for earthquakes where a tsunami might have been generated is still “Long and strong, GET GONE”. After a disaster has happened, there might be several hours lag time depending on the state of communications with affected areas before a warning can be issued. In the event of a near field tsunami generated just off the coast, that is too late.
So, I welcome the Civil Defence mobile test on Sunday night, but I want to see how they roll it out to other mobiles.