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A New Alert Vocabulary? Cell Phone Alerts Are Planned

The alerts would be delivered with a unique audio signature.

A new service could be in place by 2010 that would provide nationwide emergency alerts using text messages to cell phones. The alerts would be delivered with a unique audio signature.

The Associated Press reports the plan grows out of the Warning Alert and Response Network Act, a law that requires upgrades to the nation’s emergency alert system. The FCC was charged with developing new ways to alert the public about emergencies.

“The ability to deliver accurate and timely warnings and alerts through cell phones and other mobile services is an important next step in our efforts to help ensure that the American public has the information they need to take action to protect themselves and their families prior to, and during, disasters and other emergencies,” AP quoted Chairman Kevin Martin as saying.

Participation in the system by carriers is voluntary. Cell phone subscribers would be able to opt out of the program and may not be charged for receiving alerts, AP reported.

There would be three types of messages; the first would be a national alert from the president, the second would involve “imminent threats” like natural disasters or large-scale shootings; the third would be reserved for AMBER Alerts.