Federal Emergency Alerts via Mobile: Is Your Phone Ready?

You may have heard by now that the Federal government has come up with a new system to alert people in specific geographic areas about major emergencies such as terrorist attacks or natural disasters. The alerts will be delivered directly to mobile phones via text-like messages. 

However, unless you have a recently manufactured phone that contains a special chip; you won’t be able to receive them. To find out if your phone is capable of receiving the alerts; you’ll need to contact your wireless carrier. 

Of the four major wireless carriers, Sprint is the only one with information about the alerts on their website. However, that information only talks about the new system and what it will do; not about what phones will actually be able to receive the alerts.

 The mobile alert system goes by a couple of different names. It is most commonly referred to as the Personal Localized Alerting Network (PLAN) system, but the technical name for it is Commercial Mobile Alert System (CMAS). 

PLAN is  an extension of the existing Emergency Alert System (EAS) which sends out alerts via broadcasters and other media service providers, and is set to launch in New York and Washington, DC by the end of this year. It and will be rolled out to other parts of the country in 2012.

PLAN allows customers who own one of the specially enabled mobile devices to receive geographically-targeted safety alerts. Although they will look like regular texts; they won’t be sent using SMS (standard messaging service).

That’s because they will be transmitted via a new technology that ensures emergency alerts will not get stuck in highly congested user areas, which can happen with standard mobile voice and text services.

They’re also designed to really grab your attention with a special ring tone or vibration, and you won’t have to open them, like you do regular text messages.They’ll just pop up on your screen already open.

There are three different types of alerts:
1. Alerts issued by the President
2. Alerts involving imminent threats to safety of life
3. Amber Alerts
The new mobile alerts will be free, and you will automatically be signed up for them via your mobile carrier. The government will transmit the alerts to mobile carriers; and the carriers will push the alerts directly to their customers’ phones.

While you can opt out receiving safety and Amber alerts; you can’t opt-out of getting the ones that come directly from the President.
 

You can get more information about the new alert system on the FCC website. www.fcc.gov

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