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Text Alert System to Put 'PLAN' in the Palms of New Yorkers' Hands


TMCnews Featured Article

May 10, 2011

Text Alert System to Put 'PLAN' in the Palms of New Yorkers' Hands

By Tammy Wolf, TMCnet Web Editor

The 9/11 World Trade Center attacks and recent foiled plots to wreak havoc on New York City’s Times Square and subway systems have had many of us, especially New Yorkers, in fear of potentially dangerous situations. But a new text notification program has been created in hopes of alleviating these fears and giving New Yorkers immediate alerts right in the palm of their hands.

Thanks to the program, aptly called “PLAN,” or “Personal Localized Alerting Network, New Yorkers will soon be able to receive several types of warnings – ranging from messages of potential terrorist threats and impending dangerous weather to amber alerts – and even alerts directly from President Barack Obama.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (News - Alert) will unveil the first-of-its-kind text alert system near Ground Zero this morning (Tuesday). As a city that experiences constant heightened danger due to recent thwarted attempts to bomb city subways, Times Square, and, of course, the tragic terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center towers, New York City will be the first to gain access to the program. The system is expected to be used nationwide by mid-2012.

"Given the kinds of threats made against New York City at the World Trade Center, Times Square, and other places popular with visitors and tourists, we’ll be even safer when authorities can broadcast warnings to everyone in a geographic area regardless of where they came from or bought their phone," Bloomberg commented in a statement.

The network, which is expected to be implemented by the end of the year in New York and Washington, D.C., will automatically provide New Yorkers with brief text-like messages alerting them with relevant information to situations such as the recent Times Square threat. Unlike alert system NotifyNYC, which requires users to sign up, PLAN will automatically send messages to New Yorkers’ cell phones.

According to FCC (News - Alert) Chairman Julius Genachowski, who has been heavily involved in the ongoing Next-Gen 911 movement to establish a digital, IP-based foundation for the delivery of 911 calls, the system will help the user to distinguish whether an alert is coming through, rather than a normal text message as it will be accompanied by a unique vibration or signal.

“We don’t expect the alerts to be frequent,” Genachowski said. “They will be reserved for when they are truly needed, for tornadoes or for disasters like 9/11.”

Customers of participating cell phone companies, including AT&T, Verizon (News - Alert), Sprint or T-Mobile, in an affected area will receive these special messages.

As for compatibility, some phones already have chips built in but manufacturers will install a chip to new devices in 2012. Users may also have the option to block some messages; however, alerts from the President will always go through.

Tammy Wolf is a TMCnet web editor. She covers a wide range of topics, including IP communications and information technology. To read more of her articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Rich Steeves

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