New York makes history with use of wireless emergency alert to search for bombing suspect

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Officials in New York are praising technology that helped them get word out to the public during a manhunt following a bombing.

Sirens, highway signs and interrupting radio broadcasts were the best options to alert the public about emergencies. But now, officials can use an alert like one that showed up on the screen of nearly every smartphone in the areas where police were searching for the bombing suspect.

Built into all modern smartphones, it's a capability Californians have seen used for amber alerts.

"I think it's a step forward for people like me who don't watch television or maybe don't listen to the radio, it's the only way you're going to get an alert like that," one woman said.

San Francisco has never issued a wireless emergency alert. So far, they've never had a situation that has warranted it. Of all the tools they have to communicate with the public, this one is reserved for only the most dire situations.

"We may use it for something like a tsunami warning," San Francisco Department of Emergency Management spokesperson Kristen Hogan said.

Local officials can choose where the alert goes out. The states told them to use it sparingly because if the alerts get annoying then people will opt out and officials don't want that.

"Not to be using it to do pancake breakfast notices or fundraisers, it really is for the most critical alerts," California Office of Emergency Services spokesperson Kelly Huston said.

"If we can get everybody in the city engaged in helping us keep us safe, I think this is the way to go. This is the future," New York City Police Department Commissioner James O'Neill said. null
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