Will Your Cell Phone Save Your Life?

The FCC will announce their new emergency warning system later today, which is called the Personal Localized Alerting Network (PLAN). This new service will let emergency officials send text messages to cellular devices in locations where something may threaten your safety and well-being. Alerts will continue on television and radio stations. However, the FCC recognizes that not all of us even utilize a tv or radio these days. We do, however, have our phones with us nearly every moment of the day. As seen with a similar service in Japan, many lives can be saved with a quick text message warning of imminent danger.

New York should have the free PLAN service in place before the end of this year, along with Washington, D.C. The four major cell providers – AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon and Sprint – plan to initiate the service well before the April, 2012 deadline around the nation. Some of the phones currently in your possession (including a few iPhones and Android offerings) already have the required circuitry needed to receive the alerts. The iPhones which have the chip in place will need software updates. New AT&T phones due to arrive in October of this year will be ready for the PLAN.

You will be signed up to receive the alerts automagically. You can, however, opt out of messages warning of imminent threat and Amber Alerts if you choose. You can not opt out of the “presidential alerts.” When you think about it, you’ll realize that you likely won’t want to opt out of these types of messages, y’all. If you heard that a huge tornado was on a path to completely miss your area, would you hear a siren or television alert in time when that storm suddenly changes its path? Personally, I’d rather get the notice on my phone instantly, and be ready to take action.

During any type of emergency or terrorist threat, alerts will be initiated by government agencies. As soon as FEMA and PLAN have correctly identified a valid alert, it will be immediately forwarded to all wireless providers. These companies, in turn, will relay the message to you. This may seem like it will take a lot of time, but it is designed to happen nearly instantly. If you are in the affected area, you will receive the message. If you live in that area but are out of town – no message for you. Likewise, people visiting a targeted area will receive the message while they are there if one should be issued.

You may be groaning, thinking that this entire setup sounds like a pain in your side. I’ve heard a few people complain about it already – how “annoying” these texts will be. For one thing… I certainly hope that we aren’t having terrorist actions on a regular basis. The same goes for tornadoes or hurricanes. It’s not like you’ll receive messages every five minutes.

I don’t know about you, but an “annoying” message is not so annoying when it’s saving your life.