EDITORIAL: New alert system gives president too much power


Patrick Casey

New alert system gives president too much power

By Editorial Board

The federal government will conduct its first nationwide test of a new emergency alert system called the “Presidential Alert” Oct. 3. The alert will send notifications to approximately 75 percent of cellphones in the country, according to a Sept. 21 news article.

According to FEMA, the Emergency Alert System is a national public warning system that provides the president the capability to address the country  during an emergency. The alerts will be similar to Amber Alerts or severe weather warnings.

According to the article, the Department of Homeland Security will not track the alert’s performance, but a DHS official said the agency would ask DHS and FEMA employees to report when they receive it.

Presidential Alerts could be a good way to alert the American people of danger and lead them to safety  if a public crisis were to occur, but we should not give President Trump the authority to decide what warrants sending out an alert.

President Trump is notorious for sending out erratic tweets that continually raise eyebrows. If this alert system is inaccurate and contains mistakes by him or someone within his administration, this could lead to widespread panic.

Emergency alert systems have been known and proven to falter in the past.

In January, Hawaii residents received an emergency cellphone alert which read, “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.” However, it was a drill, and it took authorities 38 minutes to let residents know that.

Hawaiians and tourists had no way of knowing this alert  was a false alarm, which led to widespread panic. If a nationwide alert was sent to everyone and was a false alarm, the mania and confusion that would follow would be devastating.

Another problem is that alerts are not going to be monitored by DHS and FEMA. Without prior review from the departments that deal with these situations directly, the Presidential Alerts can lead to an imbalance of power.

While the alert system is meant to be used for public good, giving this heightened authority to one individual is flawed. DHS and FEMA are designed to keep the American people safe, and we should keep it that way.

The Presidential Alert System should not give sole authority to any president to send out whatever he pleases. In a government with checks and balances, we must have a system that allows these alerts to be reviewed beforehand to ensure accuracy and control the level of power in the highest office.