Earlier this month, bombings in multiple areas of New York and New Jersey led to the arrest of Ahmad Khan Rahami. Rahami was eventually discovered by police sleeping in the doorway of a bar after a shootout with authorities, but not before many in the area had a vague alert sent to their phones:
WANTED: Ahmad Khan Rahami, 28-yr-old male. See media for pic. Call 9-1-1 if seen.
For many, the NYPD text was confusing and did not convey the necessary information in the Wireless Emergency Alert’s (WEA) allotted 90 characters. Now, the FCC has approved a proposal from November to expand alerts to 360 characters that will also allow for links and embedded media.
As The Verge reports, the FCC’s plan will also include more accurate geotargetting to make sure the right people will receive relevant WEAs from authorities. Besides finding persons of interest faster, these geotargetted alerts could keep people safely indoors (or tell them to evacuate) during future incidents without causing mass panic.