Could Your Cell Phone Save Your Life?

By: Angela Raleigh, Account Executive, Leonard & Finco Public Relations, Inc.

I’m sure we’ve all seen emergency alerts on TV or heard one on the radio. But with the recent string of devastating weather, including tornadoes and flooding, it’s not surprising that the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) is expanding its emergency alert notification system to reach more people faster.

The system, developed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), will allow government officials to pass along alerts concerning emergencies via cell phone. The new system, called PLAN, or Personal Localized Alerting Network, is a free service that allows customers with enabled cell phones to receive local text messages about threats in their area. Officials at PLAN verify the alerts and relay the messages to wireless providers, who will then push the information as text messages to cell phone users in the affected area.The service will initially launch in New York and Washington, D.C. by the end of this year and is expected to roll out nationwide in 2012. AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile are all on board to assist and help push the information to their cell phone users when a threat exists.

When I first heard about this, I thought it makes perfect sense. With the number of people who rely on mobile devices for just about everything, having a cell phone warning system that sends an alert to cell phone users in advance of a disaster could potentially prevent casualties and save lives.

This is a step in the right direction of getting pertinent information out quickly about natural disasters. While I think it makes perfect sense, some questions do come to mind: will consumers take advantage of the free information or will they opt out to decrease the amount of information that is sent to their cell phones? Or what about cell phone customers of wireless carriers who aren’t part of the system? I’m sure there will be some bugs to work out, but with time this should be a useful system. Thoughts, comments or other questions that come to mind?