Send out nationwide emergency alerts through phones

A telco user receives an SMS alert from the Singapore Civil Defence Force.
A telco user receives an SMS alert from the Singapore Civil Defence Force.PHOTO: ST FILE

I commend the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) for its constant efforts in testing the Public Warning System (PWS) to ensure that Singaporeans are familiar with what to do should a threat to lives and property arise.

Currently, when the pulsating blast is sounded to alert the populace to an important broadcast, people are to tune in to any local FM radio station or TV channel.

I understand that for the PWS sounding on Sunday, the signal was sounded through the SGSecure application as well. But not everyone has downloaded the application, and I am unsure if the signal will come through if I do not have any cellular or Internet reception.

The SCDF can consider something similar to the Presidential Alert or National Emergency Alert system in the United States, where phone users are alerted to threats with a pop-up trigger on their phone. And phone users cannot opt out of this communication system.

The Japanese also have a mandated earthquake warning alert on their phones.

It may seem like an invasion of privacy but during an emergency, the impetus is to alert the population as quickly as possible.

Of course, if such a system is to be implemented, measures must be in place to ensure it is not abused and that it is used only in genuine national emergencies.

Sean Lim Wei Xin

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 18, 2019, with the headline 'Send out nationwide emergency alerts through phones'. Print Edition | Subscribe