I don’t know how they manage to do it. However, since Hurricane Katrina in 2005 whenever someone says government ineptness, people automatically think of FEMA first. It doesn’t help that since 2005 the Federal Emergency Management Agency has had nothing but screw up after screw up. Don’t get me wrong, I think we ought to have an agency that can monitor and respond to national and large local emergencies to provide relief. I just don’t think FEMA has any place doing it with their reputation.
And yes, I know that technically the Mayor of New Orleans, Ray Nagin, and the governor of the state, Kathleen Blanco, were more to blame with the loss of life and disaster down in Louisiana than FEMA was. I also know that FEMA can’t act in a local capacity until they are invited into the state and a formal request of help is made. That was also the fault of the leadership in Louisiana. However, the bungling of the distribution of resources after the request was made was totally FEMA’s fault. There was enough blame to spread some on everyone after Katrina and rightly so, but really, who is going to be easier to remember, a giant faceless federal agency that is in the news all the time or some two-bit politician. You get the picture.
But now FEMA has gone and screwed up something vitally important that we as a nation have been relying on for years. No, it’s not some little thing either, we’re talking about the National Amber Alert process. I know that every one of you knows what an Amber Alert is, has seen one during the course of one of your days, and has kept a little bit of extra vigilance out during that time. The Amber Alert process saves lives, and we want nothing more than to protect the children of this nation, but really FEMA, how in the hell can you screw this thing up.
As it turns out, it was quite easy. On December 31st of last year, the way people receive the Amber Alerts on their cell phones changed. This was supposed to be a good thing. In addition to Amber Alerts, the cell phone messages included now also send imminent threat alerts, for natural and man-made disasters, and presidential alerts, for national security. This is all well and good until you see the message on the phone. The message is an annoying pop-up that says, Imminent Emergency, Check Your local Media Now!
Really, check my local media? This doesn’t look like a real emergency to me or to a lot of cell phone users who have opted out of the annoying process of notification. The damn message looks like a spam-bot that found a cell phone number and decided to give it a ping in hopes that someone would try to answer back. Others have complained the Amber Alerts contain no identifying information on what to look for so they have to search the news for any indication and it is more frustrating if they are out of the local area. How is the Amber Alert being given, by physical location or by the billing address? People don’t know because most phones are automatically set up to receive the alerts without the customer’s knowledge. Having the phone go off in the middle of the night blaring an alarm with little to no actionable intelligence is not helping people to love and embrace this new system. Instead they call their carrier and say, how do I get this worthless crap off my phone.
Way to go FEMA, you’ve managed to screw up something that worked just fine by giving it a couple of governmental tweaks. How long will it take for you to figure out that you rarely make a problem better, instead you usually add a layer of bureaucratic red tape and a pile of angry people.