The Norwegian government’s serious about using SMSes to warn the population about catastrophes, but they seem to be thinking more of warning about epidemic diseases and floods than of replacing air raid sirens as we discussed last month. In Hong Kong authorities recently sent out a blanket SMS to six million people to calm their fears about SARS after a web hoax had caused panic. But how would authorities show recipients that the SMS was official and not just a new hoax? In a report in a magazine called Ananova it sounds like not everyone was convinced:

The government’s text response said: “Director of Health announced at 3pm today there is no plan to declare Hong Kong as an infected area.”

“At first I wondered why they sent me such a weird message,” said Ada Ko, a 47-year-old office assistant. “It’s useful, but it came in a bit too late to calm the public.”

“It’s a bit odd,” said 20-year-old student Forrest Kan, who had been unaware of the “infected city” rumour until he got the message.

In Norway, Dagbladet reports, they’ll be testing SMS warnings this summer, sending out 80000 test messages to all mobile phones that are in contact with certain bases in T¯nsberg. As Anders pointed out you’d think swamping an entire telecommunications network with text messages would be kind of dodgy in an emergency, but perhaps for smaller cases it’d be OK? I still like Eirik’s suggestion for the standard message they should send when the atom bomb falls: ATMBMBR UNDRVS. CUL8ER – MAYB.

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