Craig Fugate, former head of the US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), slammed Apple’s decision to ditch FM radio chips in its latest iPhones and called on the handset vendor to reverse course.

In an article written for South Florida-based Sun Sentinel, Fugate branded Apple “irresponsible” for shying away from what he called a “straightforward, common sense approach to public safety.”

Fugate’s comments follow a revelation from Apple its iPhone 7 and iPhone 8 models do not include an FM radio chip. The vendor made the disclosure in response to a call by Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman Ajit Pai for it to activate the chip so residents in areas impacted by recent hurricanes could receive emergency alerts despite the loss of cellular service.

The former FEMA chief noted many of Apple’s competitors – including Samsung, LG and HTC – have already activated the chips in US devices.

“It is time for Apple to do the right thing and equip smartphones with FM radio capability. Lives depend on it,” he wrote.

This weekend, Hurricane Nate became the fourth such storm to hit the southern US in three months, following Harvey in August, and Irma and Maria in September.

Both Harvey and Irma caused significant cellular outages in the impacted areas, and Maria completely wiped out cellular service in Puerto Rico (81 per cent of sites on the island remained out of service by 9 October)

The FCC allocated $76.9 million to help rebuild telecoms infrastructure in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.