If you feel out of touch with the all the emergency alerts issued by the government get ready to join the loop. Your mobile phone is now going to be part of the Emergency Broadcast System.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) part of the Department of Homeland Security is demonstrating today a new system for warnings to be sent as text messages to cell phones satellite radio devices cable TV stations Web sites and PDAs in addition to traditional media outlets.
The warnings for terrorist attacks or natural disasters such as hurricanes are intended to be of use to both emergency responders and the general public. In many cases the text messages sent to mobile phones will alert the reader to check TV stations for more information.
The new system will use capacity within the digital TV transmitters of public broadcasting stations in the U.S. The stations will transmit to receiving networks for wireless devices satellite radio services and so on.
Already in UK and Israel
This textmessaging system for emergency alerts has been in the test stages since October according to Homeland Security and has already been tested in public TV stations.
By the end of the year Homeland Security expects to roll it out first in the Gulf Coast states hard hit by recent hurricanes and then to large cities around the country. Consumers will automatically receive the alerts but can opt out.
Avi Greengart an analyst with technology research firm Current Analysis noted that automated text messages for emergencies are already used in such countries as the UK and Israel.
"With the publicity around American Idol and other short message service (SMS) advertising promotions" he said "awareness among the general population is now quite good. Since mobile phones are devices people carry with them all the time reaching out to them in an emergency makes a tremendous amount of sense."
The system to be demonstrated today directs the cell phone user or the satellite radio listener to TV or other channels for more information. Dave Linsalata an analyst with IDC said that the cell phones in particular could become an allinone emergency receiver.
"I think we're going to hit a point soon with G and so on where you won't need to go to another medium" he said. "You can watch the video or audio information as well as receive the text messages on your cell phone." He pointed out that a G system also could provide more bandwidth than the current system to avoid overloading.
During the Cold War the Emergency Broadcast System was established to provide warnings over TV and radio of nuclear attack. It was accompanied by the nowfamous statement: "This is a test of the Emergency Broadcast System. This is only a test."
The statement was followed by an audio tone. As a nuclear war has not yet taken place the system has never been used in nontest mode.