During the recent earthquake here in Los Angeles, I found myself mildly spooked. Not because of the quake itself, nono – after all, I had, since I moved to LA, wished for exactly this kind of quake. “I want a quake,” I told friends, “just strong enough for me to experience one [I’d never felt one before], but mild enough so no one gets hurt.” The quake of a couple of weeks ago was exactly what I’d ordered.
But, since I live in Venice, within what the city calls a “Tsunami Red Zone,” I thought it would be cool to know if there was any kind of tsunami warning. Luckily I had power and an internet connection, because I quickly ascertained (via various news sources) that there was no such warning.
Digging deeper, I realized I had no way to know this had I been without power, or dead asleep, or driving, or under any other circumstance less than ideal for receiving that kind of urgent warning, where 30-60 seconds of extra time could clearly make the difference between life and death.
I surfed the City of Los Angeles’ Emergency Management Web site, wondering if there was some way I could sign up for alerts of any kind. Nothing. I called them a few days later. No, sir, we don’t have a system like that in place, I’m afraid. The lady I spoke with quickly volunteered, “but neither does New York City,” as if that would somehow make me feel better.
How hard could it be to implement something like this? I realize it’s probably much more difficult than whiners like me would make it out to be, but there must be a solution. It was very hard to get a cell phone call (in or out) in the aftermath of the quake, so maybe this would put more pressure on already-strained infrastructure. Although I’m not a Verizon customer, I found it disturbing – and revealing – when Verizon spokesperson Ken Muche told cNet that their quake call volume was “about 40 percent higher than our projections of what we might experience in a natural disaster.” Then, Ken: please adjust your projections.
If I’m asleep at 0230 and there’s a tsunami warning, I’d like to be awakened. Ideally that means my phone rings, but really anything that gets my sorry ass moving would be welcome.
I checked my AT&T wireless bill. I pay $17 per month in taxes, and $12 of it goes directly to the City of Los Angeles. I’d really love to know where this $12 is going, and if we might direct a bit of it toward something as critical as this.
Or, technologists: maybe we can talk about ways to solve the problem directly, and fuggetabout the damn telcos. Ideas?