Emergency Text Alerts In Store for NYC and DC

| On 10, May 2011

Soon residents and visitors in NYC and DC will receive location-based emergency updates on their cell phones .. WHETHER THEY LIKE IT OR NOT!

If you live in New York City or Washington, D.C., you could randomly receive an emergency .. *gasp* .. TEXT ALERT on your cell phone in the event of impending danger. The not-so-ground-breaking technology is long overdue for major American cities, but can serve a valuable purpose in today’s age of terrorist threats, shitty weather, and Amber Alerts.

The Personal Localized Alerting Network, or PLAN, service is being rolled out by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and will be unveiled at the site of the former World Trade Center. The emergency updates can include urgent messages from the president, Amber Alerts, impending mass severe weather (i.e., hurricanes), and terrorist threats/attacks.

Here’s how it will work. If you’re in Lower Manhattan and a terrorist threat happens, because you’re in the vicinity of those cell phone towers, you will receive an alert on your cell phone. It does not matter if you are a visitor or your phone number doesn’t have the 212/646/917 area code. The service will send out emergency updates to whatever phones are currently within range of selected towers.

There is no need to opt-in to the service, but you cannot opt-out of it. It’s for emergencies only, but it’s unclear if cell companies plan to charge their customers for the incoming texts. It is expected to be functional by the end of the year in both major cities. A rollout to other U.S. cities may come as early as 2012.

This news shows just how far behind the curve the government (at all levels) is with technology. But, at least they are implementing it. I would think that in this age of literally billions of texts sent every year that the government would have seen how valuable and immediate this form of communication is. On the other hand, there are privacy concerns as people will be forced to receive emergency messages.

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