FEMA, NYC Launch New Emergency Alert System

Mayor Bloomberg joined FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate on Tuesday to announce the Personal Localized Alerting Network, to be available in New York City later this year.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski, and executives from AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon met Tuesday morning at the World Trade Center site to announce the Personal Localized Alerting Network -- a free service that will allow customers with an enabled mobile device to receive geographically targeted alerts of imminent threats to safety in their area. PLAN will be available in the city by the end of 2011. This is at least six months before it becomes available to the rest of the country, according to FEMA.

PLAN ensures the emergency alerts won't be stalled by user congestion. It allows authorized government officials to send messages that are pushed by participating wireless carriers via their cell towers to enabled mobile devices inside a targeted geographic area. "In both the public and private sectors, I've always believed in the need to harness technology in new 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 Bloomberg. "But given the kinds of threats made against New York City at the World Trade Center, Times Square, and other places popular with visitors and tourists, we'll be even safer when authorities can broadcast warnings to everyone in a geographic area, regardless of where they came from or bought their phone. I want to congratulate FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski and FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate for this quantum leap forward in using technology to help keep people safe."

Fugate said the technology could be vital for millions of Americans. "Following the devastating tornadoes in the Southeast, we are witnessing yet again the critical role the public plays as part of our nation's emergency management team," he said. "Making sure that they get useful and life-saving information quickly and easily, right on their mobile phones, will help more people get out of harm's way when a threat exists. This new technology could become a lifeline for millions of Americans and is another tool that will strengthen our nation's resilience against all hazards."

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

Three types of alerts will be sent as messages of 90 or fewer characters from PLAN: (1) alerts issued by the president; (2) alerts involving imminent threats to safety of life; and (3) Amber Alerts. Carriers may allow subscribers to block all but presidential alerts.

The Warning, Alert and Response Network (WARN) Act, passed in 2006, requires carriers that choose to participate to activate PLAN technology by the FCC's April 2012 deadline. For more information on PLAN, visit blog.fema.gov/2011/05/plan-another-part-of-publics-emergency.html

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