Blue Alert should be shelved until perfected

It would be an understatement to say that last week’s Blue Alert caused some confusion and revealed some problems with the system. When every cell phone erupted at Minot Daily News and an office full of veteran journalists had no idea what the alert meant, when the scroll on broadcast media conflicted with itself and when the one place with alleged actual information is a crashed website, there is definitely a problem.

Officials say they are already working on the various aspects that went wrong. There is no reason to question that. But hopefully they keep Blue Alert shelved until the system works right.

Working “right” should begin with a public information campaign. Too many people – including many in media – had no idea what the alert meant.

Secondly, the information delivery platform obviously needs work. What does one do to access the information? Directing people to broadcast media or to a website are both much too limiting. Information should be delivered to all manner of media outlet and to local authorities. Those institutions’ social media efforts and web presence would distribute the information much more efficiently than a single website. Whatever information needs to be disseminated will get out quicker if people receive it passively, as opposed to trying to punch in an obscure web address.

Finally, whatever messages do go out in conjunction with a Blue Alert should provide enough information for people to feel they know what they should do. Even if it’s just a “keep an eye out for…” There’s no reason to foster fear and rumors… unless there is a reason people should fear something. Clarity is essential.

It doesn’t seem an insurmountable challenge to get the Blue Alert system up and operating and to better inform people about it. Let’s just hope they get it right next time.

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