About a month ago, I walked off a plane into the terminal at SJC. As I hiked that long walk to the exit, I heard a familiar and annoying sound, the Emergency Alert System sound.
The sound was muffled, and it took me a few more steps to realize it was my own phone bleating in my pocket. Somewhat embarrassed, I took it out and quickly dismissed the alert, which happened to be an AMBER Alert.
I dismissed the notification so quickly that I didn’t get much information from the actual alert itself. I walked a bit farther before stopping to see if I could recall the notification and actually read it, nope.
I did get another chance about an hour later, as I stood at the front desk of a hotel, but again, the bleating of alert, coupled with the social awkwardness made it nigh impossible for me to read the alert. I tried again to find it without success.
And so it goes with every emergency alert I’ve received on my phone. They have a knack for coming at inopportune moments, like the time one came through in the middle of the night while we were all asleep. Good times.
So, we’ve got a major usability problem here. On the one hand, smartphones are an enormous boon for emergency officials who need to notify the general public. However, on the phone side, how do you make the alerts more usable without forcing users to resort to turning them off completely?
At the very least, the alert should be retrievable so I can review it in peace after turning off that awful noise.
Interesting problem, thoughts?