Nationwide text messaging alert system

Posted By on April 11, 2008

In keeping with the text messaging theme, the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) by 2010 is preparing a nationwide text messaging alert system that will be used for three primary purposes.
alert iconFirst it would be a message from the President of the United States to warn of a terrorist attack or natural disaster. The second would involve “imminent threats,” which could include natural disasters like hurricanes or tornadoes or even university shootings. The third would be reserved for child abduction emergencies, or so-called Amber Alerts. These will be ‘special’ text messages and be delivered with a unique audio signature or “vibration cadence.” The FCC press release follows.

Washington, DC – The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) today adopted a First Report and Order (Order) that will support the ability of the nation’s wireless carriers to transmit timely and accurate alerts, warnings and critical information to the cell phones and other mobile devices of consumers during disasters or other emergencies.

In compliance with the Warning, Alert and Response Network Act (WARN Act), today’s Order adopts relevant technical requirements based on the recommendations of the Commercial Mobile Service Alert Advisory Committee (CMSAAC) for the transmission of such emergency messages to the public.

During emergencies, Americans increasingly rely on wireless telecommunications services and devices to receive critical, time-sensitive information anywhere, anytime. Once fully implemented, the Commercial Mobile Alert System (CMAS) will help ensure that Americans who subscribe to participating wireless services receive emergency alerts when there is a disaster or emergency that may impact their lives or well-being.

Wireless carriers that choose to participate in the CMAS will transmit text-based alerts to their subscribers. As technology evolves, the CMAS may eventually include audio and video services to transmit emergency alerts to the public. To ensure that people with disabilities who subscribe to wireless services receive these emergency alerts, the FCC adopted rules that will require wireless carriers who participate in the CMAS to transmit messages with both vibration cadence and audio attention signals.

Consumers can expect to receive three types of messages via their cell phones and other mobile devices from participating wireless carriers, including:

– Presidential Alerts – national emergency-related alerts delivered to the American public that would preempt any other pending alerts;
– Imminent Threat Alerts – alerts with information on emergencies that may pose an imminent risk to people’s lives or well-being; and
– Child Abduction Emergency/AMBER Alerts – alerts related to missing or endangered children due to an abduction or runaway situation.

Under the CMAS, subscribers to wireless services with roaming agreements will receive timely alerts, provided the subscriber’s mobile device is configured for, and technically capable of, receiving such emergency alerts from the network they are roaming on.

Participating wireless carriers will be required to comply with the rules adopted in the Order today within 10 months from the date of announcement that a Federal agency has been designated to collect and transmit the alerts to the wireless carriers.

Action by the Commission, April 9, 2008, by Commercial Mobile Alert Service First Report and Order (FCC 08-99). Chairman Martin, and Commissioners Copps, Adelstein, Tate and McDowell. Separate Statements issued by Chairman Martin, and Commissioners Copps, Adelstein, Tate and McDowell. PS Docket No. 07-287.

Public Safety & Homeland Security Bureau (PSHSB) contact is Lisa Fowlkes, Deputy Bureau Chief, at (202) 418-7452.

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