updated 10:55 pm EDT, Mon May 9, 2011
System mimics EAS for radio, TV
The FCC is reportedly ready to introduce an emergency alert system that focuses on communication to cellphones. The Personal Localized Alerting Network (PLAN) essentially mimics the current Emergency Alert System, which is limited to radio and television stations. AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon are said to be voluntarily collaborating with the Commission to as it prepares to launch the new service.
"The traditional alerts on radio and TV are still important, and they will continue, but more and more, mobile devices are becoming essential. You have them with you," said FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, according to quotes posted by USA Today.
AT&T has confirmed that some of its handsets, including the iPhone, will require software updates to enable PLAN alerts. Customers will reportedly be able to opt out for certain alerts, though presidential alerts will be distributed to everyone with a supported device.
Genachowski suggests the new system will enable authorities to quickly distribute information that may save lives. If the system would have been in place several weeks ago, the Chairman suggests it could have been used to provide community-specific warnings regarding tornado paths or storm intensities.
The FCC is expected to formally announce the alert network on Tuesday at the World Trade Center site in New York City. The system is said to be on track to launch in New York City and Washington DC by the end of the year, while the rest of the nation may be added by April 2012.