Automated Alerts: Beyond the Apocalypse

Earlier this week, I wrote about a new Federal emergency alert system that is scheduled to go into effect by the end of this year in New York and Washington, DC. 

But, as some doomsday prophets were anticipating end of the world this weekend; I thought looking into what kind of automated alerts are available right now made a lot of sense. If something really bad happens in your area, how would you find out about it in enough time to perhaps save your own life?

Taking what has happened over the past few months into account; it makes sense to be prepared. From massive earthquakes and a nuclear meltdown in Japan, to tornadoes in Alabama, wildfires in Texas, and massive floods in Louisiana; this has been a year of record devastation for millions of people worldwide.

Many died. More lost everything. Some had no warning, but maybe you might. Maybe you’ll be one of the lucky ones. Maybe you’ll be prepared. Maybe you’ll have a plan. Maybe you’ll survive. 

Google the name of your town and the words “emergency preparedness” and you’re likely to find links that will take you to pages where you can sign up for emergency email and text alerts. Two examples in the Washington, DC area are Alert DC,  and Arlington, VA Emergency Alerts

You can opt in to get email and/or mobile text alerts when there is a major weather, crime, traffic, Amber Alert, or other emergency. You don’t have to get all of them, and can choose only the ones you think will be most useful. It’s easy to do, and there is no charge (other than the standard fee your mobile carrier charges for texts). 

These text alerts, by the way, are regular SMS (standard messaging service) type of texts. That makes them different from the new ones the Federal government will be capable of sending out in the New York and DC areas by the end of this year through the Commercial Mobile Alert System (CMAS).

Those text-like messages will be sent out on an entirely different communications system, called the Personal Localized Alerting Network (PLAN). Federal officials say this system will be better than ones currently in operation for several reasons. 

One reason is that it will be integrated with the Emergency Alert System (EAS) which sends out alerts via broadcasters and other media outlets. Another is that new alerts will also be able to bypass messaging log jams on normal mobile networks in ways that regular SMS cannot.

The new alerts can also be targeted to a specific area, and will only appear on your mobile phone if you are in in the area when the alert goes

The catch is that only mobile phones with a special kind of chip will be able to receive the new alerts; most people don’t have that kind of phone yet; it will only be in effect in a few cities at first; and while the goal is to roll it out nationwide, there is no set date for exactly when that will be done.

So, right now your best bet is to sign up for the email and text alerts available right now, and to make a plan for how you’d get somewhere safe in the event of an emergency. 

While you’re at it; you may also want to put your emergency “Go” kit together. Follow this link for tips on where to keep it, and what it should include:


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