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New York State Testing Emergency Alerts Over Gaming Networks 212

Posted by timothy
from the ideas-can-be-both-good-and-creepy dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Gamers are used to confronting invading terrorists, nuclear attacks, and natural calamities—in virtual form. But those living in New York State could soon receive warnings about real emergencies through their favorite video console. State authorities are testing a plan that would see the Emergency Management Office issue alerts over online gaming networks in addition to regular channels."
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New York State Testing Emergency Alerts Over Gaming Networks

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  • Re:Good Idea! (Score:4, Informative)

    by Shakrai (717556) on Thursday November 19, 2009 @04:16PM (#30163590) Journal

    Who filters the users by region? Does MS and Sony give NY state the list of users that live there or does NY state tell MS to broadcast the message to this region?

    New York State already has an alert system [nyalert.gov]. It's operated on an opt-in basis. You provide the information for the geographical area that you wish to receive notifications for. It currently sends out notifications for severe weather, amber alerts, escaped convicts, etc. It can also do more mundane (weather/event reporting) reports too.

    I would imagine that the purposed system would just link into that. You'd simply be able to select "Counterstrike" and "Call of Duty" in addition to "SMS", "Voice" and "e-mail" as a notification option. The onus would still be on you to opt-in.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 19, 2009 @04:23PM (#30163716)

    Opt-In SMS alerts for NY are available here:

    http://www.nyalert.gov

  • Re:Fucking moronic (Score:4, Informative)

    by DdJ (10790) on Thursday November 19, 2009 @05:27PM (#30164908) Homepage Journal

    The scenario you describe can certainly happen, but is also not inevitable.

    I work for a major university myself, and similarly to what you described, we implemented an alert system after 9/11 ourselves.

    It is opt-in. People can join and leave at will. This fact is critical to making it work.

    Every single time a message goes out, we think about how many people will consider that usage frivolous, and how many will unsubscribe as a result. And we think about how many people will then not receive an alert that could have saved their lives, and how many dead students we might end up with as a result. When you spell it out in those terms, it becomes considerably easier to silence any requests to use the system for frivolous purposes.

    I think the most frivolous things our system has been used for were "the weather on campus is so bad that you had better not come in today", and "the water in the dorms is contaminated, don't drink it, pick up fresh water at these locations instead". Also for bomb threats and stuff ("clear building ${FOO} as it may explode at any moment").

    We do test the system, yeah, something like twice a year. And every single time we use other channels (eg. email, newsletters) to tell people ahead of time that we'll be testing it, when we'll be testing it, and how to opt in. This doesn't just warn them to explain and expect the interruption, it also ensures they can figure out if the messages aren't getting through to them! If you just do the test without letting people know ahead of time, then nobody will ever find out about the people who were supposed to be contacted but who weren't!

    ---

    That said, some system that ties directly into the gaming networks in some novel way is probably not necessary. I know exactly how I'd implement this for XBox Live.

    What I'd do is set up a gateway between our alert system and MSN Messenger (or whatever the hell they call it these days). If you're signed into XBox Live with a silver or gold account, and you have an MSN Messenger account tied to it, you can receive instant messages on your console directly. They pop up in a little alert just like an achievement. If the message is short enough it goes into that alert, and if it's longer you have to go to the chat screen to read it. This is fine for this purpose, and will also get the messages out to some computer users and even some handheld users (okay, mostly just both of the WiMo users, but still).

The reason that every major university maintains a department of mathematics is that it's cheaper than institutionalizing all those people.

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