Alert Fatigue

One of the most common objections to the requests for a Silver Alert system is Alert Fatigue. Also known as Alarm Fatigue, the concept is that if the public is exposed to too many alerts for different things, they become desensitized and may ignore or miss important alerts.

The Silver Alert attempts to address this concern in two different ways.

Targeted alerts

The first is by geographically targeting alerts.

Lost person behaviour research tells us that people with dementia, on foot, are usually found within a few kilometres from where they were last seen. By only alerting people within 10 to 12 kilometres from that point we target the alert only to the people who can do something about it.

Unlike the Amber Alert, where the criteria indicates it should be sent to a wide area such as an either state or province, we envision the Silver Alert only being sent to a single community.

Alert Type

Second technique to avoid alert fatigue is to design a system that differentiates between alert types. The typical alert system we’re all familiar with in Canada is designed to alert the public to an immediate threat to your safety. However, a Silver Alert isn’t a threat to one’s own self, and may not demand immediate action.

Creating urgency levels with appropriate sounds, and visual indications, is paramount to the success of an alerting system. A Silver Alert would be a less urgent, informational alert that would ask for specific actions from the public – but not necessarily wake someone up in the middle of the night with an alarming sound.

We envision the Silver Alert to make a sound on your phone similar to any SMS or email message you may already be familiar with.

Public Attitudes

People who carry smart phones are used to receiving various alerts throughout the day. They understand what those alerts are for – emails, texts, apps, etc. A simple, non urgent, informational alert about a local missing person – with specific directions on what actions are requested – will not overly tax the public’s attention or induce “fatigue”.

We understand that urgent alerts that are intended to interrupt, grab a users’s attention, and suggest an immediate action to save lives, are an entirely different system and is reserved for a different category of event.


A missing person with Dementia, Autism or other cognitive issue is a medical emergency. Their lives are in danger, and the public is in the best position to offer assistance.

The chance of a missing person with dementia surviving drops to 77% after 12 hours, 60% after 24 hours.

Alerting the public is paramount for the survival of these vulnerable people. We envision geographically targeted, non urgent alerts to inform but not alarm the public in order to assist in the search for missing people in an urban environment.