It goes without saying that we’re big proponents of emergency alerts, and especially for calls about missing children like this story. But we’re also aware of the risk associated with calls like this.
The article says that some folks who were angry about being woken called to have their names removed from the list. That works for mobile phones, but apparently the county (Stearns County, MN) won’t remove landline numbers from the list.
Now, since landline phones are going the way of the dodo (we’re almost to the point where half of all households don’t have a landline), insisting on calling folks’ landlines may only hasten that trend. And it sure won’t reach the other half of people who only have a mobile phone.
And the majority of the people called would be in bed, asleep or at least at home. So the odds of them being able to help find the missing child are pretty low.
So here’s the balance that needs to be struck: call everyone in the area where the child was and hope someone produces a lead while annoying at least some people who will remove themselves from the calling list and possibly be unreachable for future alerts. Or wait until morning and hope the delay is worth the trade off.
We don’t have an answer and it’s clear from the article that this county doesn’t abuse its alert system. So we support the county’s choice. But we do think it’s worth raising the issues involved.