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Emergency alerts, 'like' them or not

Posted Friday, November 11, 2011, at 2:02 PM

The concept of emergency alerts through social media was mentioned following a test of the United States' broadcast Emergency Alert System earlier this week.

A proposed bill by Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) would involve the Federal Emergency Management Agency, as well as state and local emergency agencies, sending alerts, such as weather warnings, to individuals' Facebook and Twitter accounts -- with the user's consent.

"We want to respect people's privacy and I believe the vast majority of people will choose to receive emergency messages," Collins said. "But I don't want to impose that message on people who, for whatever reason, are adamantly opposed to receiving the message."

There's been some concern that you don't "like" FEMA on Facebook or "follow" FEMA on Twitter, you may not receive the warnings.

I've also wondered about the short, one-time National Weather Service warnings on radio. If you're in the car and listening to a Nashville or satellite station instead of one from Shelbyville - or to your iPod, etc. - you aren't going to hear warnings for Bedford County. Maybe social media is the solution.

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I might get a text message in time, but my FB and Twitter would be close to useless for me. I get so many that I don't look at them until I get a break.

If I am driving, I should not be reading any so.... that leaves me to radio. If I think there is a threat of bad weather, I tune locally, no matter where I am.

The thing that concerns me about local broadcasts is that they usually refer to Counties not major towns.

Anyone from out of the area may not know what county they are in, nor if they are in the Northeast or Southwest part of that county, but I would usually know where I am in relation to the closest town.

When I was traveling through Atlanta earlier this year I heard the local sirens, so I turned the radio to local. I heard about the tornadoes but unless I knew the counties, I was lost.

Obviously with the sirens going, it was close, but if I was just watching the clouds and listening to the radio, I might not realize I was about to be hit.

That happened in Little Rock some years back and I am lucky to be alive.

-- Posted by stevemills on Fri, Nov 11, 2011, at 4:24 PM

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David Melson is a copy editor and staff writer for the Times-Gazette.