Sprint first to support Wireless Emergency Alerts on their cellular network

Kudos to Sprint for being the first U.S. carrier to support CMAS, or Commercial Mobile Alert System (which apparently, FEMA has decided needed another acronym, PLAN, or Personal Localized Alert Network) on their wireless network.  For now, it looks like it’s only available in a limited area on specific devices, and it’s an opt in (from what I can tell, this will be mandatory on all carriers by April 2012).  I first saw the news in an article at Android Central, since I don’t lurk on Sprint’s website much.  Call it what you will, this is a pretty exciting initiative, capable of sending distinctive alerts to customers based on their geolocation, and at no cost.

I’m sure there will be some push back from privacy advocates and the tin-foil hat crowd, but the initiative has been in the works for years, so I hope they’ve had their say.  It will be interesting to see how the security is implemented on this system, I hope it’s not easily compromised.

The applications for the system are supposed to be limited to Presidential alerts, imminent threats to people or property, and AMBER alerts.  When you consider situations like school violence, suspicious packages, missing children and hazardous chemical releases, the geolocation capabilities of this system should make it very powerful.  Along with the EAS initiative for TV broadcasts, it’s great to see this systems getting modernized.  It was impressive to see Japan’s earthquake early warning system in action earlier this year, it undoubtedly saved lives, and I hope these new initiatives will be equally effective here in the U.S.

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2 thoughts on “Sprint first to support Wireless Emergency Alerts on their cellular network

  1. While at the IAEM conference this week, I spent some time talking to the FEMA people about this system. It’s part of an overall plan called Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (http://www.fema.gov/emergency/ipaws/), and it is supposed to add some significant capability to the existing system. The major point is that the alerts are not subscription based, and they are based on which devices are connected to cell towers within a defined geographic area. This allows for no notice alerts targeting a fairly specific area – without customer interaction. The existing rollout will work with devices that are not Sprint subscribers, but are roaming on the towers that have the system. This means of you are a cell customer from a non-Sprint network travelling from Florida, and your phone is roaming on the Sprint towers, you can receive the alerts. It’s a powerful tool.

    The FEMA rep I spoke to yesterday indicated that the April 2012 date is not a 100% nationwide rollout target, but we will see this deployed as agreements are hammered out with the various carriers.

    IPAWS is a large initiative, tying together several separate technologies, and will make it easier for alerting authorities to reach more people in less time. Here’s a diagram of the system architecture: http://www.fema.gov/pdf/emergency/ipaws/architecture_diagram.pdf

  2. Pingback: Next Generation 911: Taming the Hydra 160 characters at a time. | My Big Fat EM Blog

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