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Philadelphians shaken by false weather alert messages

Fri 03 Aug, 2012 // Firstnumber Team
weather alert message

Residents in some parts of Philadelphia, USA were surprised to receive weather alerts on what seemed like a fine day earlier this week. “Severe alert! Flash flood warning” messages were sent to to mobile phone users in the area as part of the recently launched Commercial Alert Mobile System.

Most recipients were not in danger. They had fallen victim to the same technical glitch that had seen people in the San Diego region issued with similarly alarming alerts just two days prior.

The system is a joint venture between the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Federal Communications Commission, and national mobile network operators.

Over the last year, the alert system has become a common, free feature on most new mobile phones sold. It kicked off in April to issue warnings for both natural and unnatural disasters, including tornadoes, floods and hurricanes.

Just like standard text messages, mobile devices use ringtones and vibrations to announce the alerts. Philadelphians were told to “check local media” on Wednesday.

FEMA representative Damon Penn is confident the glitch will be overcome. Project officials do not want false alarms to stop people from paying attention to future warnings.

"I'm more freaked out about the fact that my phone knows where I am enough to warn me," one local woman tweeted.

Penn believes the system should not be overly localised since it is very common for people to travel to surrounding areas for work and leisure.

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