FCC, FEMA go mobile with emergency alerts


New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg joined FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, FEMA administrator Craig Fugate and top telco execs to unveil PLAN, otherwise known as the Personal Localized Alerting Network. It is designed to get emergency info out to cell phone users. NAB said it was very nice but still not even close to being a replacement to the emergency service provided by the nation’s broadcasters.

The free service will be offered in New York City a couple of quarters ahead of the rest The FCC stated, “PLAN ensures that emergency alerts will not get stalled by user congestion, which can happen with standard mobile voice and texting services. Authorized government officials can send messages, which participating wireless providers then push using their cell towers to enabled mobile devices in a targeted geographic area.”
Bloomberg and Genachowski both praised the new service.

“In both the public and private sectors, I’ve always believed in the need to harness technology in news ways, including ways that its designers hadn’t anticipated. The City’s opt-in Notify NYC system is a great example of that: it alerts people to dangers and delays via email and mobile devices, and it has become a national model of emergency communication,” said New York City Michael Bloomberg.

“Communications technology – and in particular mobile broadband – has the potential to revolutionize emergency response,” said FCC Chairman Genachowski. “Our communications networks need to be reliable and resilient in times of emergency.  The FCC is working with carriers to ensure that they are.” 

NAB Executive VP Dennis Wharton was a bit more skeptical. “We’re pleased that cellphone carriers plan to live up to their promise to Congress five years ago to implement an emergency alert messaging system. However, when a cellular network goes down, customers will still be unable to access these 90-character warnings. As was evidenced in Alabama and other parts of the South just two weeks ago, there is no communications system that matches the life-saving immediacy of a local broadcast signal.”