Monday, May 9, 2011

NYC to be First with Personal Localized Alerting Network

New York City will be the first in the nation to activate the Personal Localized Alerting Network, which is the new public safety system that allows customers who own an enabled mobile device to receive geographically-targeted, text-like messages alerting them of imminent threats to safety in their area. The NYC network is expected to come online by the end of 2011, at least two calendar quarters before the rest of the nation.


The network is being designed to ensure that emergency alerts will not get stalled by user congestion, which can happen with standard mobile voice and texting services. Authorized government officials can send messages, which participating wireless providers then push using their cell towers to enabled mobile devices in a targeted geographic area.

PLAN complements the existing Emergency Alert System, which is implemented by the FCC and FEMA at the federal level through broadcasters and other media service providers.

Consumers will receive three types of alerts from PLAN: (1) alerts issued by the President; (2) alerts involving
imminent threats to safety of life; and (3) Amber Alerts. Participating carriers may allow subscribers to block all but Presidential alerts.

"Communications technology – and in particular mobile broadband – has the potential to revolutionize emergency response," said FCC Chairman Genachowski. "Our communications networks need to be reliable and resilient in times of emergency. The FCC is working with carriers to ensure that they are."http://www.fcc.govIn November 2010, lcatel-Lucent introduced a Broadcast Message Center (BMC) solution that allows mobile operators to comply with emergency alerting standards in the United States. The BMC system acts as a secure interface between an emergency management agency and the service provider's network, delivering emergency alerts to cell sites in a specific geographic area. For instance, targeted text alerts can be sent to residents threatened by tsunamis, wildfire, tornadoes, floods, etc.; to warn of school emergencies; or to inform citizens of an Amber Alert. Alcatel-Lucent's Broadcast Message Center manages message and delivery priorities, scheduling and re-transmission needs for these alerts.


The FCC has established the Commercial Mobile Alert System (CMAS) to standardize this emergency alert system on a national level. The CMAS network will allow the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to accept and aggregate alerts from the President of the United States, the National Weather Service (NWS), and state and local emergency operations centers, and then send the alerts over a secure interface to wireless providers. The location-specific emergency alerts will be classified in one of three categories:

  • Presidential Alerts-- Alerts for all Americans related to national emergencies, such as terrorist attacks, that will preempt any other pending alerts;

  • Imminent Threat Alerts -- Alerts with information on emergencies, such as hurricanes or tornadoes, where life or property is at risk, the event is likely to occur, and some responsive action should be taken; and


  • Child Abduction Emergency/AMBER Alerts -- Alerts related to missing or endangered children due to an abduction or runaway situation.


It will be possible for consumers to opt out of receiving Imminent Threat and Child Abduction/AMBER alerts, but not Presidential Alerts. A unique and dedicated vibration cadence and audio attention signal will be used for emergency alerts. The system will require CMAS-enabled handsets and these are expected to come to market in 2011 or be enabled by software upgrades to mobile handsets. The system is also designed as a priority one-to-all broadcast from the cell tower to all handsets in range, thus avoiding any network congestion issues.

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