Flutterby™! : AMBER Alert

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2013-08-07 15:44:53.529244+00 by Dan Lyke 6 comments

Yesterday, there was a pushed "AMBER" alert SMS message that went to, apparently, all cell phones in California. I FaceTweeted:

847 cell phones per 1k ppl in the U.S. 3M ppl in San Diego area. 15 seconds to check your phone. Amber Alert last night cost >10k hours.

At that time I thought it was just to the San Diego area, but if it went to all California phones that's more like 38 million people with a cell phone penetration of .847, so 32 million phones, and 134108 hours. California's per-capita income is $45k/year, with overhead we'll call it $25/hr, which means that AMBER Alert cost $3.35M. Not counting tourists.

And they haven't caught the guy yet. From http://www.amberalert.gov/statistics.htm in 2011 there were 158 AMBER Alerts, with 28 recoveries based on those alerts, which means we can multiply that number by 5.6. So that AMBER Alert really cost $18.9M.

The EPA uses $6.6M $7.4M in 2006 dollars as the statistical value of a human life, which the Bureau of Labor Statistics Inflation Calculator tells me is $7.64M $8.57M. At a cost of well over $9M (remember that we predicated this message that woke many people from sleep only cost 15 seconds to respond to), this text message was really bad policy.

Especially since most everyone I know has complained about this being crying wolf, and now figured out how to turn off those notifications in their phones.

[Edit: Corrected numbers for statistical value of human life. Don't know how I'd gotten them wrong before.]

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comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: made: 2013-08-07 15:51:11.589049+00 by: Diane Reese

Not to mention the Amber Alert was not sent for over 24 hours after the abduction, which makes it much less timely.

#Comment Re: made: 2013-08-07 15:51:29.805798+00 by: Dan Lyke

Oh, and the guy in the next cube snarkily points out that it's not like a Nissan Versa with 3 people in it would make it over the Grapevine, so they could have at least limited it to Southern California...

#Comment Re: made: 2013-08-07 15:56:10.513799+00 by: Dan Lyke

I thought that the children were last seen at 5 or 6 PM on the 5th, and the first round of messages hit around 1AM on the 6th? I didn't get mine 'til like 5:30 PM on the 6th, which is 24 hours, but many friends are complaining about being woken from sleep.

Of course my phone just vibrates for such messages, apparently, but based on this and the earlier activation for alleged heavy rainfall that people were talking about on the east coast, I've just turned all that crap off.

#Comment Re: made: 2013-08-07 16:42:19.378373+00 by: Dan Lyke

(And, actually, I've been corrected: This is only a "feature" in newer phones, so the number was actually quite a bit lower than that. That they failed to have the penetration they were trying for doesn't make it any stupider than the people back in the early days of running an Internet provider where people tried to email "all")

#Comment Re: made: 2013-08-07 17:23:39.483721+00 by: Dan Lyke

On Slashdot, Mark Gibbs says that he got two, one at 10:54PM, one at 2:22AM.

#Comment Re: made: 2013-08-08 00:28:09.736283+00 by: nkane

My phone made a full volume emergency alert sound for several seconds. Scared the shit out of me as it was on the counter next to my head at home. Had I been driving at the time I might have swerved into a tree. That is one alert I will never hear on my phone again - it got turned off as soon as I found out (the hard way) that it was a thing.