November 17, 2011
Emergency Broadcast System Moves Into New Century
The old and venerable emergency alert system is on its way to being updated for the 21st century with the news that wireless carrier Sprint will allow free, wireless emergency alerts to inform a population that is increasingly mobile and away from radio and television sets, Suzanne Choney of MSNBC is reporting.
Sprint will allow no-charge text messages issued by the president as well as for emergencies and Amber Alerts for missing children. Only users within the affected areas will receive the alerts, and subscribers can opt out of all alerts except those sent by the president.The alerts are “delivered at no charge to the customer and have a distinctive vibration cadence and audio tone similar to what is heard for emergency alerts on broadcast television and radio,” Sprint said in a blog post.
Testing of the service will begin before the end of this year in New York City, along with that city´s Office of Emergency Management, the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Any customers who are in an area affected by the emergency declarations will receive SMS texts when their phones are enabled with special chipsets and software. The warnings are sent based upon geolocation, Fierce Wireless reports.
Steve Elfman, Sprint president of network operations and wholesale, said in a press release, “We look forward to testing this critical service in a city that is the epicenter of our nation´s financial, media and fashion markets. During the next year, Sprint will continue working with FEMA, DHS, and numerous state and local emergency agencies to successfully make the alerts available nationwide.”
Testing, it is hoped, will go better than last week´s national exercise by FEMA of the Emergency Alert System on TV and radio, when some reported hearing a Lady Gaga song played through the test period.
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