Passing on Official Alerts via Emergency Shout - Some Thoughts

It was one heck of a busy day yesterday. In part, this was driven by having tasks outside and a forecast of storms in the afternoon, reinforced by a stream of weather warnings. I was washing the dishes when I detected that subtle change in sound suggesting the impact of hail. Grabbing the iPhone, I went onto the patio to record the cacophony. Sure, it’s not a hurricane or tornado, but the impact can cause damage.

It was only after the excitement died down that it occurred to me that it would have been worthwhile to pass along such official warnings across UMESH via the Emergency Shout feature. Thinking about this suggested it would be worthwhile topic to explore in discussion because the idea linked concerns about abuse of the Emergency Shout feature with the beginnings of the practical uses of mesh technology. Several criteria suggested themselves.

First of all, IMO passing along alerts should generally be limited to official ones. I know a lot about weather, but I still leave it up to the NWS to issue warnings, etc. Such warnings are generally broadcast over one of the NOAA weather alert channels, a good way to verify authenticity of such alerts. In addition to weather, there are Amber Alerts for children potentially in distress, as well as Silver Alerts for seniors who may wander off. Potentially, if there was a chemical spill, the system would pass along vital lifesaving information like wind direction and evacuation routes.

Second, using Emergency Shout in this manner should be limited to info whose immediacy necessitates the reach provided by Emergency Shout. Watches are not the same as warnings and generally don’t warrant this special treatment, but sometimes they might be worth passing along. Floods often provide lots of warning, but the watches issued may require evacuations well before the warning about the crest finally hitting.

Third, if a mesh network does pass along such warnings, it should develop a method to designate one person to act as the lead on these questions. Having six people issue virtually identical potentially lifesaving suggestions might help redundancy, but at the cost of confusing the message.

I’m sure there are other factors to consider. Input into this interesting question is encouraged.

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I’ve brought this up a couple times in other threads (not it’s own thread, just as a reply), particularly if you were able to get something like the NYC mesh going, or ski resorts, or even if one day a solar powered UAV was cruising above an assigned area (like a ski resort or national park). My thoughts were more along the lines of giving the option to set up something like a “group chat” for local areas where people could subscribe to the chat, but they could only receive…whereas only certain IDs could post to it.

For example, I live near the Red River Gorge in Eastern KY, an area where people love to go camping, hiking, and rock climbing. We have people from all around the world come here to visit, however due to the mountainous terrain and numerous streams, cell signal is poor to nonexistent and flash flood threats are very real. In this case, a “group channel” would be beneficial to have to push out alerts on (both a general “there’s a risk of flash flooding/severe thunderstorms today” as well as actual warnings). Obviously you wouldn’t want people to be able to reply to this particular chat, because the warning may quickly get buried, so only 1 or 2 radios (or specific phone apps with the right credentials? that way if the goTenna ID gets reset or a new phone is purchased, they could still post on the chat by just entering the credentials) would be allowed to transmit on that channel, but anyone “listening” could receive it. That would also be useful at places like ski resorts, where they may want to push out information on an event (a celebration/party that evening, lost child, etc) without all of the excess chatter.


I think that could be useful, but I’m thinking more in terms of universality. If you need to subscribe or enter as a contact, then that’s a piece of info only those proactive enough to do the research would benefit from. The messages might be useful in an emergency, but would also cover more pedestrian general cautions about safety. All good, but this wouldn’t reach all goTenna Mesh users in the area.

That’s one reason why I want to stick to using the “official filter” provided by piggybacking such warnings on the existing system in terms of priorities. The other is that it depends on no change in the firmware or software. Even if more than one user were to input the warning, people could crosscheck and confirm it. I assume that other users so inclined to pass along warnings would hear the initial warning over the mesh and refrain from tying up things by repeating it ad naseum.

There’s also the case that as mesh grows in an area, eventually some areas will be so far afield that the hop count won’t carry the warning to them. In most cases, not an issue. They would be several miles away from danger, too, one hopes. If they sense imminent weather issues, then they would tune to the scanner, weather app, or other source of official info. It might take a little experience, but if they don’t hear a warning, then they shuld pass along when they do get one.

In a sense, I think the concerns about needing a dedicated group are mainly driven by assuming that there will be problems with people not using good judgment about such things. However, the ease with which most users can confirm any warning they receive via mesh means that those who might spoof will find little traction as people ignore obviously false warnings should they become an issue. Better to assume that most people will use Emergency Shout wisely if a good example is set and clearly defined protocols for use are widely known and reinforced by the way users conduct themselves in accord with them.