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Ref: FCC approves SMS emergency alert program


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April 10, 2008
Text Alerts to Cellphones in Emergency Are Approved

WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal regulators approved a plan on Wednesday to create a nationwide emergency alert system using text messages delivered to cellphones.

Text messages have exploded in popularity, particularly among young people. The trade group for the wireless industry, CTIA, estimates more than 48 billion text messages are sent each month.

The plan stems from the Warning Alert and Response Network Act, a 2006 federal law that requires upgrades to the emergency alert system. The act requires the Federal Communications Commission to develop ways to alert the public about emergencies.

“The ability to deliver accurate and timely warnings and alerts through cellphones and other mobile services is an important next step in our efforts to help ensure that the American public has the information they need to take action to protect themselves and their families prior to, and during, disasters and other emergencies,” the commission chairman, Kevin J. Martin, said after the plan was approved.

Carriers’ participation in the system, which has strong support from the industry, is voluntary.

Cellphone customers would be able to opt out of the program. They also may not be charged for receiving alerts.

There would be three types of messages, according to the rules.

The first would be a national alert from the president, probably involving a terrorist attack or natural disaster.

The second would involve “imminent threats” that could include natural disasters like hurricanes, tornadoes or university shootings.

The third would be reserved for child abductions, so-called Amber alerts.

The alerts would be delivered with a unique audio signature or ”vibration cadence.”

The service could be in place by 2010.

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