Comcast’s idiotic Amber Alerts

We had another Amber Alert last night here in Nashville. For those of you who’ve never experienced one of these things with Comcast, let me enlighten you.

Comcast, and I would assume other cable outfits, do their best to please the government with Emergency Alerts, only they do so using archaic technology. For example, when a Tornado warning is issued for a county in the coverage area, Comcast brings up a blue screen with warning squawks and then proceeds with a sloooooooooooooow crawl from the National Weather Service. And those things are always SO conversational:

The National Weather Service office in Nashville, Tennessee, has issued a tornado warning for the following Tennessee Counties: Davidson, Wilson, effective until 23:45 Central daylight savings time.
This crawl is then repeated, and the whole thing takes a couple of minutes. The company blocks ALL signals during these warnings, so let’s say you’re looking at a live radar picture on channel 2. You’ll just have to wait until Comcast does their thing. Meanwhile, your whole neighborhood is blown away.

It’s bad enough during weather, but these Amber Alerts are handled exactly the same way. The blue screen says “Abduction Emergency.”

The State of Tennessee has issued an Amber Alert for the following counties: Davidson, Rutherford, Sumner, until 00:57 Central daylight savings time.
That’s it! No other information. And all channels are blocked, including those who are running the audio (useful) version.

Okay, now I’m sitting there watching a program, which the above “alert” interrupts. I read the thing and wonder, “Okay, what the f–k am I supposed to do NOW?” Hide in my basement until 1 a.m.?

Don’t get me wrong; I appreciate the Amber Alert system, but, folks, it takes a special kind of idiocy to inflict this on customers. Either use the audio version, or find a way to give a description and some details, please. And while we’re at it, how about buying a piece of software that’ll make these things look like we’re no longer living in the 1960s?


  1. Playing amber alerts on the radio is one thing, especially if you are in the car and are in a position to actually be on the lookout — but at home while watching tv? Do they actually expect people to go out running from the house to take up the search?

  2. Scott S. says

    And why do Amber Alerts have an expiration time? Are the authorities announcing that they will stop looking for the missing kid at 12:57am?

    Due to a brief power failure, I found out that if you are not using a cable box (speaking of technology from the ’60s), if the cable is simply plugged into the back of your TV, when the alert pops up, turn your TV off and back on to get back to regular programming immediately.

  3. In Illinois we have a pretty cool system for handling similar situations that I actually saw today. On the electronic signs over the highway they announced a missing kid alert and told anybody seeing a green car (they gave the make but I forgot) with a certain license plate number to call 911. That’s a good use of technology.

  4. North Carolina’s Amber Alert is just as in-effective. Radio has all the details as audio; but there is no effective way to encode that information as data for video (cable and tv). The problem is putting Amber Alerts into the weather EAS template.

    To make matters worse, no one is seriously interested in fixing the problem.

  5. I totally agree. I’ve been complaining about this for a while. If you are going to take over my cable box, at least provide some useful information. How hard would it be to just scroll at the top of the screen while you are watching your tv show? And half the time, it doesn’t flip back to the channel i was watching. During storm I always have news 2 on, so the alert takes over my box, painfully slowly scrolling useless crap, flips to channel 3 then sometimes goes back to news 2. Normally it will go to ch 4. blah!

  6. Rick Knopick says

    I can disable amber alerts on my phone. Why don’t I have this option with Comcast?

  7. Peter Davis says

    On Comcast with an Amber Alert it is even worse if you are watching an ON Demand replay of a show. The alert stops the replay and you have to resume the show from the beginning all over again with no fast forwarding and hope the Alert doesn’t come at the halfway point again!

  8. This continuous interuption for the same amber alert is outrageous! And the alert is for 300 miles away! when I turn the TV off then back on I go to my local channel and my program (Dateline) I was watching. It comes back up and about 10 seconds later it is again interupted by the alert. And this has been going on in circles for an hour now. I’m about rfeady to cancel Comcast altogether. There doesn’t seem to be any other way of getting back to my program.

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