On a tragic day in December, a shooting incident occurred at a Czech university faculty, leading to widespread panic and fear. However, a safety measure that could have potentially lessened the chaos remained unused – the emergency SMS system.
During such incidents, firefighters can send warning SMS to all individuals near a selected transmitter and receiver. But in this case, the system was not used. Firefighters’ spokesperson, Jiri Fröhlich, said, “We offered this possibility. The commander in cases of an active shooter is always a police officer, and he decided not to use this option.”
The offer arrived shortly after the shooter’s death, rendering its use futile. Ondřej Moravčík, the spokesperson for the Police Presidium, argued that the system is primarily suitable for prolonged danger situations. “The information to be disseminated must first be thoroughly verified and the scope of dissemination determined, which is not a matter of minutes,” Moravčík added.
The potential pitfalls of using the system during the shooting were also highlighted. Fröhlich explained, “All people in the given radius would receive an emergency message; we are talking about fifty to a hundred thousand people. This would also include foreign tourists in Old Town Square or Charles Bridge. The message is always sent in Czech and English.”
The beginning of this year will witness an improvement in the warning SMS system by the Ministry of Interior. The message will no longer show a phone number as the sender but the universally understood word ‘Alarm’ with an exclamation mark. The automated messages will have a uniform appearance, clearly stating the event’s time, date, and location. “People with a foreign operator will receive the message automatically in English, and those with a Czech operator in Czech. The system will thus be more effective,” concluded the spokesperson.