You’re all probably familiar with the capability of signing up for alerts to your computer or mobile device (phone, blackberry, pager, PDA, etc.).
By signing up, you can get notifications about severe weather (such as tornados or earthquacks), transportation troubles (such as street closures or metro incidents), utility disruptions (water, telephone, or power), government and school closings, Amber alerts, or breaking news and information on major crisis (such as homeland security or other emergency situations).
Unfortunately, not everyone bothers to sign up for these. Perhaps, they don’t want to bother registering for another site, giving and maintaining their personal contact information, or maybe they just prefer to rely on major news sources like CNN or social networking sites like Twitter for getting the word out.
The problem is that in a real crisis situation where time is of the essence and every minute and second counts—envision that tornado swooping in or that ticking time bomb about to go off—we need to let people know no matter what they are doing—ASAP!
According to GovTech (October 2010), the California Emergency Management Agency is planning to deploy a new system called Commercial Mobile Alert System (CMAS) to “deliver warnings and safety information via text alerts to wireless phones in specified areas without requiring individuals to subscribe to the service.”
A pilot is scheduled to begin in San Diego in the fall.
With CMAS, emergency information can be targeted to an area affected and transmitted to everyone in the receiving area without them having to do anything. Just like your televisions receiving the emerging alerts (which is great if you happen to be watching), now your mobile devices will get them too.
I remember hearing the stories from my father about World War II how the German Luftwaffe (air force) would blitz (i.e. carpet bomb) London and other Ally cities, and the sirens would go off, blaring to give the people the chance to take cover and save their lives.
Well, thank G-d, we don’t often hear any air raid sirens like that anymore, and with CMAS having the potential to someday grow into a full national network of wireless emergency alerts, we may never have to hear sirens like that again.
(Photo: Courtesy Oak Ridge National Laboratory Emergency Management Center; http://communication.howstuffworks.com/how-emergency-notifications-work1.htm)