In the Netherlands the police and public officials use a special alert systems for informing citizens when there is an extraordinary event, or when the help of the public is needed. The service works by voluntary sign up, and the users get messages depending on which area they are currently living in. The project has now been running for a few years and seems to be a great success.

SMS Alert message
SMS Alert message

During a short stay in Tilburg in the Netherlands, where the project originated, I was shown two different alerts. The first was a severe weather warning, and the second was a call to the public to participate in locating an old and senile man that had disappeared from his home. The image above shows a message that says “Tilburg, Ringbaan South. Missing man, 80 years, demented, big glasses, big ears, light trousers, light shirt and walking. Tips: 0900-8844”. The alert is a call to the public to keep an eye out for an old man that probably will have problems to take care for him self. If you were to spot this man you can either send an SMS or call the number provided. Later that evening a new message was delivered that said that the old man had been found and was in good health.

The question is why there are no other systems like this in other countries. Or maybe there are and I’m just unaware of it. It is the first time I have seen such a system in practice, and I think it is a really good idea. Today I have a real trouble getting early warnings as they are mainly broadcasted in traditional media, especially through radio and TV. Mediums which is hard to use at the workplace, and I seldom watch regular programming on the TV. I use my computer for on-demand programming, which is becoming more and more common. Of course there is the web with traditional news and also social media, but I do not find these disruptive enough. I would really like to see other initiatives like this one. The system is really simple, cheap and could probably do a lot of good.

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