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US Senate proposes sending emergency alerts via streaming services

The US Senate is in the process of considering a bill that would allow the government to send out emergency alerts via streaming services. The proposal is part of the government’s wider effort to improve the delivery of emergency alerts.

The READI act – standing for Reliable Emergency Alert Distribution Improvement – seeks to take advantage of the US population’s music streaming habit, which last year added $4 billion to the music industry’s yearly revenue. With bi-partisan support across the senate, the bill could be debated in the next legislative session.

The enthusiasm for a new alert system in the US comes after a false emergency alert was sent out to Hawaiian citizens back on 13 January 2018. The alert warned of an imminent missile threat and ended with “This is not a drill.” A similar incident happened just a few days after in Japan.

“In a real emergency, these alerts can save lives so we have to do everything we can to get it right.”

According to statistics, user penetration from music streaming services currently stands at 49.7% in 2018. This is expected to rise to over half the population by 2022. By all accounts, these numbers make popular services like Spotify, Apple Music and Amazon Music an attractive choice for the US government to reach as many people as possible in an emergency.

Currently, when an emergency alert is issued – for bad weather, danger threats or an amber alert (relating to missing children) – citizens will find a message explaining the situation on their smartphones, as well as being notified through televisions and radio. Supporters of the READI act believe integrating the alerts into streaming services will increase the likelihood alerts are seen and acted upon accordingly.

Citing the false emergency alert in Hawaii in January, Senator Brian Schatz, co-sponsor of the act, explained the necessity for making alerts as accessible as possible: “Some people never got the message on their phones, while others missed it on their TVs and radios.

“In a real emergency, these alerts can save lives so we have to do everything we can to get it right.”


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