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Pre-Dawn Wireless Emergency Alert Wakes Up NYC 382

New submitter SkiTee94 writes "Many people, perhaps millions, in and around NYC were loudly awoken shortly before 4am this morning by an activation of the Wireless Emergency Alert system. As the New York Times is reporting, the alert was related to an ongoing search for a missing child. Given that the alert asked people to look out for a 'Tan Lexus ES300' with NY Plate 'GEX1377,' many New Yorkers are questioning the logic of waking up the whole city to ask them to look for a car. Normally such alerts are reserved for road-side signs. While emergency authorities have yet to give a precise reason for why the decision was made to wake up the city, many have taken the step of deactivating these alerts to avoid future jolting mid-slumber alarms (likely not the intended result of last night's exercise)."
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Pre-Dawn Wireless Emergency Alert Wakes Up NYC

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  • Alert (Score:5, Informative)

    by alphatel ( 1450715 ) * on Wednesday July 17, 2013 @04:04PM (#44311297)
    The actual alert was even more cryptic due to texting truncation
    "LIC/GEX1377 NY 1995 Tan Lexis"
    Kind of a pre-dawn WTF. Told my wife it was my boss asking for directions to the strip club. Did NOT get a free massage.
  • Re:Alert (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 17, 2013 @04:15PM (#44311403)

    That would be "lett" though.

  • Re:WTF? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Dr. Crash ( 237179 ) on Wednesday July 17, 2013 @04:18PM (#44311445)

    If it means I get jolted awake by my phone SHRIEKING at the top of it's volume setting every third day sometime between midnight and 3 AM when I have to go to work the next morning, then YES, my sleep is more important.

    Waking up five million people from a sound sleep once a week or so just isn't feasible; it's crying wolf and people will simply turn their phones off (which defeats the whole purpose of it). And it's not something you can set to low volume; at least on a Verizon Droid 3, even if it's set on vibrate, an alert blares at maximum alarm volume and with a particularly annoying shriek and you CANNOT set it to a lower volume; there is only "SHRIEK" and "ignore".

  • Re:WTF? (Score:5, Informative)

    by silas_moeckel ( 234313 ) <[silas] [at] []> on Wednesday July 17, 2013 @04:20PM (#44311459) Homepage

    Missing is a bit of a loose term the child was removed from a state facility by there mother during a supervised visit.

    Sounds a lot more like the state having egg on it's face and trying to clean it up asap. This is also 12 or so hours after the fact.

  • Re:Phone alerts (Score:5, Informative)

    by bws111 ( 1216812 ) on Wednesday July 17, 2013 @04:43PM (#44311685)

    Do you know what a flash flood is? It has nothing to do with river deltas or coastal areas. A flash flood occurs when rain falls faster than it can be removed. This occurs when the ground is saturated and/or storm sewers are overwhelmed. Low lying areas quickly fill with water, which can be extremely dangerous, particularly if the low lying area happens to be a roadway. It is not a threat to your home, it is a threat to your life.

  • Re:Phone alerts (Score:5, Informative)

    by Antipater ( 2053064 ) on Wednesday July 17, 2013 @04:53PM (#44311807)
    Have you heard the alerts? They're more than just the "bzzt" of a normal incoming text or phone call. It's a piercing, grating buzz, similar to a lot of fire alarms. And it's extremely loud, even if your volume is set to low or your phone is on vibrate. It really is enough to make an average person jump, then look around trying to find what's about to explode. I've never had one go off in the car, but I can easily understand a driver wobbling a bit as they try to figure out why there's suddenly an alarm blaring at them.
  • by Sparticus789 ( 2625955 ) on Wednesday July 17, 2013 @04:55PM (#44311843) Journal

    Duh, but they still have at least 2,397 cameras [] placed on the streets of the city. So "thousands" is correct.

  • Re:Loud? (Score:4, Informative)

    by voice_of_all_reason ( 926702 ) on Wednesday July 17, 2013 @05:04PM (#44311907)
    There is something so compelling about a decision made in the interests of good, but so boneheaded and asperger's-style singlemindedness that it results in the exact opposite. Makes you just want to smack the person responsible until *you* get tired of it
  • Re:Not just NYC (Score:4, Informative)

    by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Wednesday July 17, 2013 @05:05PM (#44311913)

    That seems reasonable to me. Our president isn't going to waste his time sending out alerts for every missing child. If he uses this system you know it's going to be at least a 9/11 scale situation.

    After the PATRIOT act passed, one of the first attempted invocations was by Texas state Republicans attempting to track down Democratic members of their state congress who'd left the state in order to prevent the state senate and house from reaching quorum (They had to leave the state because otherwise Texas law enforcement personnel could compel them forcibly to return to the capitol).

    Politicians will always misuse broad authority if given half a chance to do so.

  • Re:WTF? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Americano ( 920576 ) on Wednesday July 17, 2013 @05:27PM (#44312103)

    Where do you get your numbers? Because your number of amber alerts is off by several orders of magnitude, wherever you found them.

    NCEMC, which administers the AMBER Alert program, reports that in 2011, there were 158 AMBER Alerts issued in the United States. (source [])

    13 of those alerts were hoaxes, 6 were determined to be 'unfounded.' 127 of the cases, the child (or children) were recovered within 72 hours.

    Since 2005, the number of alerts nationwide has declined from a high of 275 (involving 338 children) to 2011's total of 158 (involving 197 children).

    That's a far cry short of "40,000 amber alerts issued," even if you look at the lifetime of the program, unless 2012 and 2013 saw literally tens of thousands of amber alerts issued every year.

    And bear in mind, an AMBER Alert activation in California isn't going to be broadcast to the people in NYC, and vice versa. The number of AMBER alerts any person is likely to see in a given year tops out at 10-15 for people living in California, where the highest number was seen.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 17, 2013 @05:47PM (#44312291)

    But send out an alert, and they are blamed.

    Problem is they sent out a completely worthless alert to an incredibly broad group of people.

  • Re:Phone alerts (Score:5, Informative)

    by Marxist Hacker 42 ( 638312 ) * <> on Wednesday July 17, 2013 @06:58PM (#44312949) Homepage Journal

    Ever been in a flash flood? Swimming won't help when the wall of water bangs you into a building.

I came, I saw, I deleted all your files.