The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has adopted a new nationwide warning system that utilizes cell phone SMS to alert the public of emergencies. Called the Commercial Mobile Alert System (CMAS), only three types of emergencies will be relayed to the public: a disaster (such as a terrorist attack), immanent or on going threats (such as earthquakes), or child abductions (Amber Alerts). The new program is not mandatory, but T-Mobile, AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon have announced their willingness to participate in the new warning system. The FCC has been working with the carriers as part of the Commercial Service Alert Advisory Committee (CMSAAC) for coming up with the technical requirements for CMAS. The FCC is giving the mobile phone operators the freedom to design and implement their own infrastructure for deploying the system. The only restriction is that the participating carriers must comply with the requirements and complete their construction within 10 months.
The plan for CMAS is to organize a not-yet-named federal agency who generates the messages and sends them to the participated carriers. The emergency messages are then relayed to the public via SMS by the carriers. For the disabled, the wireless operators are required to send the alerts via vibration or audio cues. Furthermore, cell phone users are able to opt out of receiving the emergency messages, should they wish not to be bothered.
The emergency alert system originated in 2006 after Congress passed the Warning, Alert, and Response Network (WARN) Act, which provided $106 million in funding to create the national alert system.
Read [PC Magazine]