National Emergency Alert System Goes Live for Cell Phones

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A partnership with cell phone companies and government agencies has just gone live with a new national emergency alert system, reports FEMA.

The After much anticipation, the Commercial Mobile Alert System (CMAS) went live last weekend, a first-of-its-kind national alert system in the U.S. that allows the public to receive major emergency alert notifications on their mobile phones without having to sign up or pay for them.

CMAS is the interface to the Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) service that wireless phone carriers will roll out in the U.S. this year. The system was developed through a partnership between the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the FCC and wireless phone carriers to increase public safety nationwide, according to FEMA.

Through the CMAS system, authorized public safety authorities will be able to use FEMA’s Open Platform for Emergency Networks (IPAWS-OPEN) to send geographically specific emergency alert notifications similar to text messages to the public.

Alerts can be a maximum of 90 characters, and in most cases, will only contain basic information such as the type of emergency, when the alert will expire and a recommended course of action. Cellphone carriers will sell mobile phones with the capability to receive CMAS notifications, said Rick Wimberly, president of Galain Solutions Inc., and blogger for Emergency Management magazine,Government Technology’s sister publication. Carriers like AT&T have already provided a list of models that can receive CMAS notifications.

Free Service

Individuals will not be charged to receive the messages, and alerting authorities will not pay wireless phone carriers for sending out the notifications, according to FEMA. The alerts will be sent to mobile phones via broadcast technology to avoid the delay that typically happens during an emergency when wireless voice and data services are “highly congested.”

Three types of messages will be sent to mobile phones: imminent threats, Amber alerts and presidential messages, but according to FEMA, most alerts will be issued by the National Weather Service.

Imminent threats include tornado, tsunami, hurricane, flood and other types of severe weather warnings, all of which will come from the National Weather Service, Wimberly said. For other imminent threats — hazardous materials incidents, for example — alerts may be issued by state and local officials, who must complete a four-step authorization process.

Read more of story by Sarah Rich  here

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